More GBIF questions (was: ITIS)

Meredith Lane mlane at GBIF.ORG
Tue Jun 22 18:25:36 CDT 2004

Wolfgang Lorenz wrote:

>On a side note, two questions:
>1.) Obviously, since the Rio Convention there have been increased efforts
>(GBIF, Species2000, UBIO, etc.) to address and solve the 'names problem' (part of
>the 'taxonomic impediment'), but it seems to me that the logic central role
>of the Codes (IZCN, ICBN, etc.) has received too little attention, so far.
>In Coleoptera Carabidae, I have to deal with more than 60.000 names (without
>counting secondary generic combinations) for 34.000 species, and I encountered
>more than 1000 names problems that cannot be settled on the basis of the
>current ICZN Code (4th ed.). Obviously there is an urgent need for several
>important amendments in details of the Code (see also recent discussions on the
It seems to me that we need to clarify a little more closely that there
are really two classes of "names problems" :
1)  Those that arise from nomenclatural practice as governed (or not) by
the Codes -- such as those you describe for your carabids.
2)  Those that arise because of transcription errors of one sort or
another (e.g. taxonomist who named it got the orthography wrong, person
who ID'ed a specimen spelled the name wrong, person who entered specimen
data into a database committed a typo).

>How do GBIF& allies deal with this part of the 'names problem', which - it
>seems to me - could be reduced  to an unavoidable minimum if the International
>Commissions would receive more support from those who have an interest in
>building global web-based databases, name servers or search engines (even incl.
>'Google' etc.).
Fixing the Codes won't take care of class 2, but it is *many* of those
that ITIS, Species2000 and GBIF have to deal with, in addition to the
confusions occasioned by class 1. Gradually, as those working on GSDs
(global species databases) for various groups of organisms complete
their work, much of the name-clutter will be cleaned up.  This is why
GBIF has a Memorandum of Cooperation with the Catalogue of Life
partnership (Species2000 + ITIS) that is designed to encourage the rapid
completion of GSDs.  At present, we estimate that *on average* for every
valid, accepted scientific name, there are two synonyms.  This means
that there are 3 X 1.75 million species names out there that need to be
listed, sorted and "cleaned up".  Obviously, this will take some time,
but the electronic means we (humanity) now have of gathering the list
together and making it available to specialists to work on will surely
make this happen faster than it would if we left everything on paper.

GBIF would be pleased to talk with the Commissions about ways that its
Electronic Catalogue of Names of Known Organisms (ECAT) could be
utilized in innovative ways to speed up the process of sorting out
nomenclature, and perhaps even eliminating the future generation of
synonyms (Just think:  Someday you're going to name a new species, and
you'll be able to check the ECAT  to see if that combination has been
used before.)

>2.)  >>... The time has CLEARLY come to coordinate these efforts, synergize
>the work that has already been done... <<
>My impression is that a lot of funding is going to IT solutions while
>potential content providers are asked to contribute for free to everyone's advantage
>(see previous discussions).  Any encouraging news on that issue?
GBIF encourages its Participants (countries, economies and international
organisations) to invest in-country in projects that will contribute
content to the GBIF network: both specimen data and names data.  In
fact, it is even in the Memorandum of Understanding that established
GBIF that they should do that.

In addition, GBIF has a small seed money awards programme to help fund
projects that will further both the development of the ECAT and the
Digitisation of Natural History Collections (DIGIT).  The proposal and
award process for 2004 is almost complete, but you can see the Request
for Proposals (RFP) at _  We anticipate
that there will be a future RFP as well.

Meredith A. Lane, PhD
PR & Scientific Liaison
GBIF Secretariat
Global Biodiversity Information Facility
mlane at <>

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