More GBIF questions (was: ITIS)

Paul van Rijckevorsel dipteryx at FREELER.NL
Wed Jun 23 14:01:30 CDT 2004

From: Meredith Lane <mlane at GBIF.ORG>
> Dear Paul,
> Back when I was a practicing taxonomist and a professor of systematics,
> I divided "names problems" as you do.  The way I divided them in my
> message yesterday was from the perspective of GBIF, which needs an ECAT
> as what is called in IT computerese an "authority file" (not to be
> confused with the term "authoritative" as it is used in taxonomy).  Most
> non-taxonomists we talk to are astonished to learn that there is no
> complete list of all the names that have ever been assigned --- never
> mind whether the synonymies have been sorted out or not.  Such a
> compilation is one step toward a meta-GSD for all known organisms, as
> well as a way to make the world's biodiversity data computer-searchable.

> More important to this discussion, however, is your last question "who
> is to do this (using databases in innovative ways to sort out
> nomenclature)"?  Seems to me that the answer is another question: Who
> has always done the work of sorting out nomenclature?  It's just that
> now there are some new tools to help (and speed up the process), which
> it seems a good idea to use.

+ + +
This question:
"Who has always done the work of sorting out nomenclature?"
is actually a worrying one as far the ICBN is concerned. I get the
impression that the people who have always done the maintenance work on the
Code are still there, but that they have (by and large) passed beyond
retirement age. I get quite concerned when I ask myself who will be doing
this work ten years from now. Actually I feel we should hurry in cleaning up
any dark corners in the ICBN while a good complement of competent people can
still attend the relevant meetings and contribute.

The interesting question in the short term is what can be done at the
interface between "databases" on the one hand and "Codes" on the other hand
(obviously, when it comes to eliminating transcription errors in collection
and specimen data, this will have to be dealt with by the database
managers). I feel myself quite unsure what "new tools to help (and speed up
the process) ...[now are there]" and what may be done with them. Seems to me
database managers should be a little more forward as to problems they
discern and the means to solve these?

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