ITIS (an explanation of GBIF's data integration activities)

Roderic D. M. Page at BIO.GLA.AC.UK
Thu Jun 24 06:48:17 CDT 2004

>Although the Napier schema is perhaps daunting it is part of a concerted
>effort to make datasets of many different types interoperable.

Chris makes some good points, but I think the Napier schema serves a
fairly limited purpose -- interchange between taxonomic databases. It
serves the community of database developers, not database users.

I think there is scope for a simple, lightweight standard for
returning some basic information about a name (rather like the
"Standard Data" suggested by Species2000 ). For example, for some
purposes, all a user needs is a name and a database id. If I have a
list of birds, having those names checked against a database is all I
need. If I have a database id, then I can look up that record and get
more information. To illustrate, if I have an albatross, all I might
need is "Diomedea", and "ITIS:174514" -- I have a genus name, and I
know I got it from ITIS, and if I go to ITIS and look up record
174514 I can get more details.

>  If one
>is interested only in querying databases of names then an approach such
>as Rod outlines may well work, although the multiplicity of formats will
>create problems.

Regarding the multiplicity of formats, adopting a simple standard
would fix that. My argument is not about standards, rather it is that
the Napier schema addresses just one small aspect of the problem.

Perhaps we could learn from other services. has some very
successful web services that people can use to sell books through
their own web sites. Amazon provides "light" and "heavy" versions of
its information. I regard the Napier schema as "heavy" -- what I'm
arguing is that we need a "light" schema so that databases like ITIS,
GenBank, IPNI, Index Fungorum, uBio, etc. can return useful
information easily. In a similar vein, Google also has a web service
interface, and it's pretty simple. As a result, all kinds of tools
have sprung up that make use of Google's technology (e.g., ). Wouldn't it be nice to have something
as simple and as elegant for taxonomic information...?



Professor Roderic D. M. Page
Editor Elect, Systematic Biology
Graham Kerr Building
University of Glasgow
Glasgow G12 8QP
United Kingdom

Phone:    +44 141 330 4778
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