[Taxacom] GUIDs

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Fri Aug 25 16:02:53 CDT 2006

A common misconception about GUIDs/LSIDs is that they are intended for
humans to look at.  Some people advocate including GUIDs in
print-publications alongside the scientific names they identify; but I think
this would be a mistake.  Scientific names are a convenient mechanism for
humans to communicate with other humans -- as demonstrated by their
persistence and universal application over the past two and a half
centuries.  Unfortunately, they are very messy for computers to communicate
with other computers.  GUIDs (LSIDs) are cumbersome for human-human
communication, but are (or at least could be) marvelous for computers to
communicate with other computers.

The future world I envision would render scientific names on human-readable
display screens in the same format they have always been rendered in print
publications (Genus, species, author, etc.), but embedded in that rendering,
concealed from view, would be a GUID/LSID that would enable a mouse-click to
more human-readable metadata relevant to the name (full authorship and
original publication details, links to other publication citations of the
name in various categories, taxon concepts definitions, specimen data,
images, maps, etc., etc.).  If done well, the human would never see any
GUIDs, nor even know they existed -- in the same way that humans rarely
scrutinize the full URL address for any given link they click on from a web

The point of my previous post is that a GUID/LSID-based infrastructure -- as
currently being actively pursued by GBIF and others -- would make arguments
about proper citation of authorship in binomials and trinomials somewhat
moot, because the complete information would be available unambiguously
(once the infrastructure is up to speed and universally adopted -- one can
only hope....)

I would never advocate replacing (nor even supplementing) traditional
scientific names with opaque GUIDs in a format intended to be read by a

As an outcome of the second GBIF workshop on GUIDs
(http://wiki.gbif.org/guidwiki/wikka.php?wakka=GUID2Report) at least two
short documents were created to help explain what GUIDs in general (and
particularly LSIDs) are, how they work, and why they're needed.  I was not
able to locate these documents online, but I believe they are both now in
final-draft form.  As soon as I can track down their availability, I (or
someone else) will post links Taxacom.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Mary Barkworth [mailto:Mary at biology.usu.edu] 
> Sent: Friday, August 25, 2006 10:41 AM
> To: Richard Pyle; taxacom
> Subject: RE: [Taxacom] Authorities for trinomials
> I do hope that this does not mean we shall one day have to 
> include the GUID/LSID identifier after naming a species.  At 
> least citing an author conveys something immediately. The 
> idea of reading something along the lines of "Homo insapiens 
> 5489209, but not Homo insapiens 4498209 ..." is not appealing. 
> Mary 

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