[Taxacom] Privacy laws and Science

taxacom2 at achapman.org taxacom2 at achapman.org
Sun Jun 18 00:32:22 CDT 2006

I certainly agree with you Chris, Mary, Karen  and others, however it is an issue we must address.

In the recent survey that I conducted for GBIF on Dealing with Sensitive Primary Species Occurrence Data, 16% reported restricting information on Collector's names and 5% on Determiner's names (100 respondents). Collector's names were restricted for a number of reasons (e.g. privacy of living people; could be used to track itinerary, etc.; privacy legislation).

Those that restricted Determiner's names all did so because of privacy legislation. Such legislation is in place in several Scandinavian countries (such as Sweden), Australia, Canada and I think Britain. No one could report on a case where the law was actually enforced, and in Australia (so far at least) I know of no institution that restricts this information, although legally they may be required to do so.

Although no questions in the survey specifically mentioned determiners names a number of respondents raised it. In the report, institutions that reported restricting determiner's names were from Argentina, Canada, Switzerland, Spain and Sweden. 

Apparently the Swedish Law is based on EU legislation (http://www.pul.nu/ - there is an English translation) and a number of European countries are reported to be introducing similar laws.

There is also an article discussing this issue in the American Reporter of November 24, 1998 (http://www.praxagora.com/andyo/ar/privacy_sweden.html)

This is a case where although not wanting to, institutions may be forced to restrict this information.  We must prepare for it! I am not sure how we can fight it?


Arthur D. Chapman
Australian Biodiversity Information Services
Toowoomba, Australia

>From Karen Wilson <Karen.Wilson at rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au> on 17 Jun 2006:

> 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 be
> 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 of Life, Species 2000 and ITIS cite just the person's name
> (where provided 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 information
> but, as I say, there is a problem with implementing a rating scheme. Who
> is willing to be a judge of whether the person identifying a specimen is
> a 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 Barkworth
> 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 must 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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