more phantom names = ?Conclusions

christian thompson cthompson at SEL.BARC.USDA.GOV
Tue Apr 18 10:57:50 CDT 2006

A couple of points:

As to the phantom name that started this string of message, Pollenia pseudobscura.
It has been corrected. It has been deleted from Wikipedia and UMichigan's Animal Diversity Web and has been marked as a database artifact in ITIS so it is no longer visible as a name. UNFORTUNATELY, Google has not update their data files as the same results that I got on 28 March were returned today (18 April), but the links no longer work!

The name has also be deleted from the BioSystematic Database of World Diptera, so the next updates to our online version (due in May), to Species2000, GBIF ECat, etc. will be correct.

This leads directly to a couple of critical points.

Yes, GIGO and Internet / online faster access can created problems, BUT universal and FASTER access also can clean up problems faster too.

Unfortunately some and they were the majority of those who responded still feel like the traditional print world that a standard of perfection needs to be achieved before information is disseminated***. And does not appreciate that using the Internet / online access can be useful.

Now for some history. Back in 1998 NSF sponsored a workshop on "The Compilation, Maintenance, and Dissemination of Taxonomic Authority Files (TAF)" in Washington DC. The people from the library community who have had a much longer experience with AUTHORITY files attended and from them the following recommendation was made:

#16 The electronic publication of Taxonomic Authority works should not be delayed because they contain errors. (The pretense of perfection should be confined to the paper media).

This recommendation came directly from the experience of the library community in pointing out the fastest way to clean up catalog files is to have people used them and find the errors for you!

The proceedings of the workshop can be found at 

Due to this recommendation we decided to put the BioSystematic Database of World Diptera online. We went online in August 2000, with 141,520 name records. The last version went online this past October with 258,215 name records. But if some one wants to do a comparison between those versions [and we have archive to CDROM serial, the Diptera Data Dissemination Disk, various versions] they will detect lots of "phantom names," which have been corrected or deleted. And except for Knut Rognes, no one discovered them before we found them. So, our position remains that the BDWD is an AUTHORITY file. Errors are corrected as soon as they are detected. And except for internal purposes we do not maintain phantom names in our AUTHORITY file.

*** Yes, no one reads warning, label, etc., but at the BDWD we do maintain QUALITY standards and clearly indicate which name records met them. So, there are warnings on all name records which have not met our highest standard of peer-review by taxonomical expertise.

F. Christian Thompson
Systematic Entomology Lab., USDA
c/o Smithsonian Institution
MRC-0169 NHB
PO Box 37012
Washington, DC 20013-7012
(202) 382-1800 voice
(202) 786-9422 FAX
cthompso at e-mail  web site

>>> Paul Kirk <p.kirk at CABI.ORG> 04/18/06 09:22AM >>>
>let me once again, if I may, point to the real problem of  'phantom names' on 
>the internet and how to avoid them. This is because a recent search via 
> revealed many more errors and it seems to me 
>the problem is already more common on WWW than it ever was in the printed literature. Fast access  >to information is fine but fast access to wrong information is an imminent threat that calls for 
>quick solutions.

I would not say that it is more common ... just more accessible.

The 'solution' is to start any search at one of the online nomenclators (IPNI, ZooRecord (ION), Index Fungorum etc) or aggregators (Species2000, UBio, GBIF) rather than just googleing the name; the nomenclators would be very grateful to hear about omissions and errors (one, Index Fungorum, does include unpublished and other non Code compliant names (with known provenance - e.g. names from label data in a specific collection) but these are hidden from the user interface and primarily for automated name resolution services.


Dr Paul M. Kirk
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