A zoologist asks: botanical names practice

B.J.Tindall bti at DSMZ.DE
Fri Jun 18 07:12:11 CDT 2004

Can't agree more here. Some time ago I was at a meeting in Copenhagen, at
GBIF and the way bacterial names appear on several websites have been a
thorn in the flesh for a number of years. However, sitting around the table
over two days and getting the chance to discuss the problems with those
names behind the e-mails or webmaster adresses was positive. Correcting all
the problems and getting some of the concepts straightened out will take
some time, but at least we had the feeling that our expertise (as bacteria
taxonomists) was taken seriously and there was a willingness to make progress.

At 17:39 17.6.2004 +0200, you wrote:
>Dear Taxacom,
>I think a bit of history is in order here.
>>There is no such cancellariid as "Cancellaria longicirrata Massy, 1917"
which is assigned to the equally non-existent genus Massya on ITIS.  (msg
from Dick Petit)
>When ITIS originally began, it combined a number of data sets that had
>been held by various US govt. agencies for who knows how long.  It takes
>a while on a shoestring budget to work through all of the accumulated
>nomenclatural errors (as noted by Dick).  If you go to GBIF, and search
>for "Cancellaria longicirrata",  then click on the name, you get to the
>ITIS record, which tells from whence the name came into the ITIS system
>(in this case the NODC taxonomic code).  You'll note that the taxonomic
>status is noted as valid, but *and here is the important part* the data
>quality standard is given as "credibility rating unverified".   That
>sounds pretty close to "caveat emptor" to me.
>Clicking back one page to the GBIF results page, you will see a little
>green envelope under the heading *user feedback*.  Clicking on that
>provides you an e-mail form in which you can contribute your comments.
>Users have reported to us that ITIS has been responsive to messages
>received in this way.
>I think it is fair to say that no taxonomic index in history has been
>infallible, and a thorough researcher will in fact check the primary
>literature  in detail, but it sure does help to have the index as a
>guide to getting to that literature in the first place.   The wish and
>hope that an electronic taxonomic index will be more correct than the
>famous printed ones (e.g. Gray Card Index, Index Kewensis, Zoological
>Record) will only come true if the experts make corrections as they find
>the errors and the list providers are responsive to comments.  The
>informatics developments needed to make this a fully automated mechanism
>are not much more than a gleam in our eyes right now, but GBIF is taking
>steps to see that those developments come to fruition.
>Please help with this process by using the feedback buttons on the GBIF
>site whenever you encounter an error.  The cleanup of all these data is
>a BIG job, but, as my grandma used to say, "many hands make small work."
>Meredith A. Lane, PhD
>PR & Scientific Liaison
>GBIF Secretariat
>Global Biodiversity Information Facility
>mlane at gbif.org
>www.gbif.org <http://www.gbif.org>

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