names vs. "names" (was: Names for BioDiv Informatics)

Richard Pyle deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG
Wed Feb 9 11:07:43 CST 2005


VERY nicely stated -- thank you, Martin & Mark!!! I agree with absolutely
everything in your post below.

It is so exhilirating to see that different people in different hemispheres
are all converging on essentially the same conclusion.

I don't have much more to add to what has already been said by all the
contributors to this thread, except to re-emphasize my own "priority one"
message that, whatever is developed be developed in a very public-domain,
open-source sort of way.  In order fot this global plan to work, the
information content of taxonomy cannot be owned by any one individual or
organization.  The "proprietary" stuff can all focus on value-added services
and tools to put those names to more effiective use.  But the names data
themselves must be freely accessible, in part or in whole, to anyone,
anywhere, anytime, and no more cost than the time to download it.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Taxacom Discussion List [mailto:TAXACOM at LISTSERV.NHM.KU.EDU]On
> Behalf Of Mark Watson
> Sent: Wednesday, February 09, 2005 7:44 AM
> Subject: Re: names vs. "names" (was: Names for BioDiv Informatics)
> We would like to whole heartedly endorse the comments propounded by Dave
> Remsen (names vs. "names" etc.) addressing the need to clearly
> recognise the
> distinction between names and taxon concepts (classification), and to keep
> them separate within taxonomic database systems. However, we would suggest
> that Dave renames his Taxonomic Name Service (TNS) to something like
> Taxonomic Concept Service - clarity of language leads to clarity
> of thought.
> For a number of years now we, as part of the development team of the
> Prometheus Taxonomic Model (Taxon 49: 55-75 [2000]), have been advocating
> the necessity of a clear distinction between nomenclature and taxonomy.
> After all, at least for the botanical code, this is one of the clear
> intentions of the ICBN (see Jorgensen, Taxon 49: 779 [2000]). We are
> currently developing a revised Prometheus model designed to better support
> the work of floristic taxonomists (the original Prometheus model
> concentrated mainly on a monographic approach), and in this we are
> implementing a three layer model similar to that described by Dave Remsen.
> At the lowest level we have working names - these are names with no
> nomenclatural status created to allow taxonomic experimentation, but also
> can be used for vernacular names.
> In the middle we have nomenclature - covering published names, publication
> details, validly, legitimacy, typification, etc.
> On the top we have taxonomy in which classifications are created
> by forming
> relationships between names.
> Names are common to all users of the system – i.e. once a name is in, it
> need never be re-entered. Multiple classifications can, however, exist and
> it is intended that each project created within the system will be able to
> develop its own taxonomy.
> Although Dave has put the case for why this separation is a good idea, it
> probably does no harm to reiterate and expand upon this. By clearly
> separating fact from opinion (i.e. names from taxon concepts) we
> remove the
> second taxonomic impediment. We tried hard at the Lisbon TDWG taxonomic
> names meeting to push for the development of a separate nomenclatural
> standard upon which the taxon/concepts standard could be built. This
> suggestion was not however adopted even though such a names standard would
> be relatively light weight, quick to develop and could be rapidly produced
> using existing sources of nomenclatural information (for botany the
> International Plant Name Index is the obvious choice) as a basis.
> The names
> standard (except for homotypic synonyms) would contain no indication of
> synonymy. If centralised such a system would in effect create a system for
> the registration of names but without the politically difficult issue of
> assigning status to any taxon concepts associated with the names.
> Indeed it would probably benefit the designers of taxonomic schemas to
> separate homotypic and heterotypic synonymy in their models. This is the
> approach we are taking while implementing a revised version of Prometheus.
> When constructing a classification only taxonomic synonyms can be
> asserted.
> Homotypic synonymy is handled in the nomenclatural side. Again we can look
> back at the distinction between fact and opinion. Homotypic synonyms are
> nomenclatural fact as they remain in existence for all time. Taxonomic
> synonyms are matters of opinion and come ago go as taxonomic whim
> dictates.
> Martin Pullan and Mark Watson
> Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 20a Inverleith Row, Edinburgh,
> EH3 5LR, U.K.
> Tel: +44 (0)131 248 2828 Fax: +44 (0)131 248 2901
> RBGE website:
> Prometheus website:

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