[Taxacom] Privacy laws and Science [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]

Mary Barkworth Mary at biology.usu.edu
Sun Jun 18 19:39:46 CDT 2006

Such a scheme is comforting, perhaps, to the non-taxonomist - but it
would also be misleading in many instances. Perhaps we should face up to
explaining that identification is not a simple task - in addition to the
fact that taxonomists are humans.  Users of data. all data, not just
specimen data, need to be aware of the limitations of their data. It is
an essential part of any analysis.
A side issue: this discussion has made me realize that some of our
specimens will show that they were identified by "Synonymy", an expert
in many taxa.  This is because our database reflects how we file
specimens, not necessarily the most recent annotation. In general, we
accept the annotations - but not necessarily the taxonomy its name
reflects. Has any one addressed this issue in posting information from
their specimens?


From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu on behalf of
taxacom2 at achapman.org
Sent: Sun 6/18/2006 6:17 PM
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Privacy laws and Science [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]

One of the reasons I am proposing a simple taxomomic verification
qualifier is not to replace the determiner and date (and ideally the
extras than Jim Croft suggests), but to be additional to them. An
executive summary if you like!

Most of the respondents to the suggestions on this listserver are
taxonomists, and they can perhaps make some judgement as to the value of
the determination using the name of the determiner and date. In many
cases, they will know the person personally, or at least know of them.
But increasingly, users of our taxonomic information are not
taxonomists, and the names of the determiner may mean absolutely nothing
to them. For our data to be of most value to the broader community, we
need some level of quality determination that the non-taxonomist users
can use to decide quickly if the data is likely to be fit for their

Also, in spite of whether the privacy laws may or may not apply to our
data and the determiner's names, there is a perception out there by some
collection institutions (as evidenced by the responses to the GBIF
Survey alluded to earlier) that it does apply to them and they are thus
NOT currently making the names of living individuals available.

There are a lot of data now being made available via the GBIF Portal,
and we have very little indication of the quality of many of those data.
We need to start documenting our data to make it of value to the users,
otherwise there is little value in making it available at all. Most of
the users are not taxonomists and determiner 'Fred Bloggs' means nothing
to them - important though that information is to other users.

Taxacom seemed to strip off my earlier attachment - so for those that
have not accessed the GBIF documents, below is a brief summary of my
suggested qualifiers

A-1     identified by World expert in the taxa  with high certainty
A-2     identified by World expert in the taxa  with reasonable
A-3     identified by World expert in the taxa  with some doubts
B-1     identified by regional expert           with high certainty
B-2     identified by regional expert           with reasonable
B-3     identified by regional expert           with some doubts
C-1     identified by non-expert                with high certainty
C-2     identified by non-expert                with reasonable
C-3     identified by non-expert                with some doubts
D-1     identified by the collector             with high certainty
D-2     identified by the collector             with reasonable
D-3     identified by the collector             with some doubts
U       unknown

I have also taken on board some suggestions, especially as to date.

There was also the suggestion that the World Expert may have made a
determination 10 years ago, and since then, the species has been
transferred to a different genus, however the specimen has not since
been re determined.  How should we handle these cases, etc.  There may
be an implied re-determination here.

Keep up the discussion - I think it is a valuable one to have


Arthur D. Chapman
Australian Biodiversity Information Services
Toowoomba, Australia

>From Jim Croft <jrc at anbg.gov.au> on 18 Jun 2006:

> Karen et al.
> I fully agree with these sentiments, but they really do not go far
> enough to
> give real 'clout' to a determintaion and its use in scientific
> biodiversity
> information management.
> Without a statement of who did it, a name on a specimen is little
> than a general unfounded indication as to where to look next.
> Once you have the name of the identifier you are in a position to
> evaluate
> if it was a stab in the dark by a mere mortal, the considered opinion
> the
> world expert, or something in between.
> The next most important thing is the date.  It is probably a
> assumpion that early career identifications are less reliable or
> authoritative than those made at the peak of career.  Although in many
> cases
> it could be argued there is probably a significant body of evidence to
> generate some debate on this assertion...  :)
> The next most important item (and probably *the* most important item),
> and
> hardly anyone ever does it, is an explicit statement of the the
> taxonomic
> concept used in this act of identification.  It could be as simple as
> the
> reference that contained the key the identifier was using, or even the
> treatment they had in mind when they nonchalantly threw a name at the
> specimen - anything, anything at all that will nail down how wide, how
> narrow, how general or how specific the identifier thought on that day
> the
> taxonomic concept was.
> Without an enterprise wide shift in the practice of documenting
> identifications, we are left with best guess, suppostion, implication
> and
> inference as to what the identifier had in mind when they applied a
> name.
> Current practice has served taxonomy well (or at least we all believe
> has) for centuries, but we should be able to do better as we seek to
> document and improve the standards of out discipline.
> Without an explicit statement of taxonomic concepts as part of the
> determination gualifier standards, noble enterprises like the
> Australia's
> Virtual Herbarium and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and
> the
> rest of the biodiversity alphabet soup will remain conceptually little
> better than a  general scientific hint of the reality.
> jim
> -----Original Message-----
> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Karen Wilson
> Sent: Sunday, 18 June 2006 12:32 PM
> To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Privacy laws and Science
> I also agree with Mary and Chris. The name of the person doing the
> identification is the most useful information to give (knowledgeable)
> users.
> A second useful piece of information to give users is the date of
> identification. The date will indicate (again, to knowledgeable users)
> whether, for example, the determination was made before or after that
> person
> published a revision of the group concerned.
> I say 'knowledgeable users' because they are the only group who will
> able
> to fully appreciate such information.
> The general user will probably be happier with something like Arthur's
> suggested A, B, etc., rating scheme.
> The same principles apply when dealing with species information rather
> than
> specimens. Thus, for each contributed species record in the Catalogue
> Life, Species 2000 and ITIS cite just the person's name (where
> by
> the source database - not always provided) and the date in the field
> 'Latest
> Taxonomic Scrutiny'. We considered a rating scheme but decided that is
> invidious because it depends on someone making an assessment of how to
> rank
> the abilities/knowledge of someone else. This way, we leave it to the
> user
> to assess the authoritativeness of the record for themselves.
> General users will not be comfortable assessing this kind of
> but, as I say, there is a problem with implementing a rating scheme.
> is
> willing to be a judge of whether the person identifying a specimen is
> global expert or a regional expert or a knowledgeable collector or
> whatever?
> An invidious task, indeed!
> Karen W.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Mary
> Sent: Saturday, 17 June 2006 6:22 AM
> To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Privacy laws and Science
> I wholeheartedly endorse Christian Thompson's statement about knowing
> who
> identified the specimen - and not some "authorityy level".  Indeed, I
> have
> gone further and pointed out to some people that if they annotate our
> specimens the benefits of their work are rapdily shared with others
> because
> we post our data to GBIF on a regular basis.  Having said which, I
> check to see why the name of the person annotating the specimen is not
> available on the records that I just checked.
> Mary

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