Botanical Web Wish List

Roger roger at HYAM.NET
Fri Jan 30 08:32:46 CST 2004

I have read with interest the discussions so far. Thanks for everyone who
has chipped in.

The thing that strikes me from the discussion is that there is no *neutral*
mechanism for hanging taxonomic data together. By this I mean a couple of
things - and this is as much opinion as anything else.

1) In order for data to persist through time it needs to reach a critical
mass where it is valued enough for it's curation to be funded. One
researcher or even a small team are unlikely to produce a sufficient volume
of work for this to happen. It usually only happens on an institutional
level when the data becomes a significant asset of the institution(s) e.g. ipni.

There are two main hurdles that prevent critical mass being reached:

1)Data compatability: One person will have interest in producing the
ultimate phylogeny of a major group whilst another is doing a pragmatic
floristic treatment of the group in a region. Both may put their data on the
web but their is no way for them to merge that data or for some one to see
all that data presented in a different context.

2) Ownership is very important: People need to be seen to have produced a
great treatment of a specific group. It is not enough to just do it - it has
to be seen to be done.

To sum it up: Competition is seen as a good thing and cooperation as a bad
thing. You get more kudos and therefore more chance of
funding/promotion/tenure if you go it alone and make a name for yourself.

We could define some easy to follow templates for people compiling data sets
and we could have a central repository that these can be version controlled
  and backed up in but we don't.

The question of why we don't do it is a far bigger one than the question of
how to actually do it in practice.

I don't know what other peoples thoughts are on this so I would be
interested to hear.

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