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

Richard Pyle deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG
Tue Jun 29 10:49:19 CDT 2004

Rod Paige wrote...

> In an ideal world, a name database would have links to 
> publications relevant to a name (e.g., its original 
> description), and these could be readily accessed if a user 
> wants to check the sources. 

I think that the general willingness to settle for anything LESS than
this standard has led to many of the problems that we now face.

> Some databases make an effort to 
> do this (e.g., the EMBL reptile database). But in the real 
> world, this isn't going to happen anytime soon. There are 
> choices to be made.

I'm not so pessimistic.  Bill Eschmeyer and his small team have managed
to do it for some 66,000 generic and species names.  Granted, it took
many years to complete; but that's because only a few people had their
fingers to the keyboards.  With a "cohesive" (trying to avoid the
dreaded word "centralized") effort to get all the taxonomists of the
world to buy into a system along the lines of what Doug and I and many
others have espoused (and GBIF is trying to implement), we could put the
fingers of THOUSANDS of specialists on keyboards, and the data for many
gorups would virtually self-assemble in reasonably short order.

Charles Hussey...

> Some specific points that I should like to make are:

AMEN to all five excellent points!! My experience has been the same.

Paul van Rijckevorsel wrote...

> Actually there is no 'Code-police': the Codes are followed 
> voluntarily (or not)

Actually, I think there is, of sorts.  The entire taxonomic community
serves as the "police" by ignoring or consistently disregarding names
that are not Code-compliant.  As such, the work of any given researcher
who voluntarily choses to ignore the Code will often detract from their
scientific reputation, rather than enhance it.

But this is true only because of the overwhelming adherence by the
taxonomic community at large.  My point in an earlier post about
revolution vs. baby steps is that if the "revolution" is too dramatic,
there is a risk that such universal conformance and respect for the
Codes may wane.

I was going to say something relevant about PhyloCode and its efforts to
achieve "critical mass" of conformance, but I know that my views on that
subject are in the minority among this list, so I'll not risk the

Richard Zander wrote...

> As long as we distinguish nomenclature from taxonomic 
> opinion, we advance in this thread. You would think, though, 
> wouldn't you, that there was some agreed upon level of 
> confidence in taxonomic opinion that databases of taxonomic 
> opinion could reflect. How might that level of confidence be 
> gauged? We've complained about situations in which there was 
> a clear lack of confidence, and seem to be able to identify 
> those readily, but under what conditions do we mostly agree?

I think an answer could be found in my suggested Google-like
"Taxonomy-Rank" algorithm (including the "I'm Feleling Lucky" shortcut).
I actually had the opportunity to meet Larry Page and Sergey Brin a few
months ago, and now I'm kicking myself for not bringing up this subject.
I won't miss the opportunity next time....

Nico Franz wrote... EXCELLENT post on power & publishing!  No quibbles here!


Richard L. Pyle, PhD
Ichthyology, Bishop Museum
1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI 96817
Ph: (808)848-4115, Fax: (808)847-8252
email: deepreef at

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