[Taxacom] Privacy laws and Science

christian thompson cthompson at sel.barc.usda.gov
Fri Jun 16 11:07:28 CDT 2006


I like very much your standard as published in your GBIF document.

I know of no standard in the field of Entomology for the verification of Taxonomy. At the BDWD (go look under names, and then Quality Assurance) we do have a standard for the assessment of quality of nomenclature and classification of the names in our database.


Are you SERIOUS? If the name on a determination, which I regard as the same as a name on a scientific publication or a scientific name is now being interpreted by some to fall under privacy laws, then the WHOLE scientific enterprise will be challenged. 

What about submissions to online databases like GenBank? They use peoples' names as part of their doucmentation. Does that mean that privacy laws apply there too?

NOW the real problem is, for example, even if we follow your own standard, only a name will allow people to know whether an A-1 [World Expert with high certainity] is better or worst than B-1 [Regional Expert with high certainity] as we all know some regional experts are better at making local identifications than world experts.

AND FINALLY, without a name then one is left with only trust that some one was properly certified as a world or regional expert, for example.

Look at the mess in Medicine. We have various systems for certifications, registration, etc., of medical doctors, but the truth is we all know that difference that counts when your life is on the line is not just a doctor certification but Dr Right. It is the personal reputation. If we loss ability to assess that then the system will fail.

In short, without being able to assign a person's name to scientific observations and hypotheses (which are what identifications are), then there will be no effective means of evaluation.

Oh, well ...

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 sel.barc.usda.gov e-mail
www.diptera.org  web site

>>> <taxacom2 at achapman.org> 06/15/06 07:25PM >>>
I am currently examing the possibility of establishing a TDWG Standard for Taxonomic Verification Qualifiers and am seeking information from anyone currently using such qualifiers.  If you are using one (or have suggestions for one), I would appreciate a copy, which can be sent to me off-line.

Later, I hope that we can start a WIKI discussion on the tdwg Web site (http://www.tdwg.org), and a presentation is proposed for the TDWG meeting in St Louis in October.

I am currently aware of three standards that are in use 
(see attached file):

1. from Herbarium Information Standards and Protocols for the Interchange of Data (HISPID) Vers. 3 

2. A similar one based on this and used by the Botanic Gardens community
International Transfer Format for Botanic Gardens Plant Records (ITF) Vers. 2.0 

3. One used by the Australian National Fish Collection

In the Data Quality Document I prepared for GBIF lat year, I suggested a two level standard that I would like to see some discussion on. I believe that none are entirely suitable, and possibly an incorporation of all four would be the best.

Chapman A.D. (2005). Principles of Data Quality. Report for the Global Biodiversity Information Facility 2005. 61pp. Copenhagen: GBIF. 

The reasons for such a standard I see as

1. The need for improved documentation of quality with the increasing distribution of primary species data
2. The introduction of privacy legislation in many countries that is beginning to restrict the distribution of people's names, including the names of determiners of specimens.  If we cannot exchange the name of the determiner, we need some other method to reliably document the confidence we have in the identification.

I look forward to your responses.


Arthur D. Chapman
Australian Biodiversity Information Services
Toowoomba, Australia

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