[Taxacom] Privacy laws and Science

Donat Agosti agosti at amnh.org
Sun Jun 18 08:12:52 CDT 2006

I agree with Chris, it is a very worrisome situation that even we in our
community get worried about privacy laws. For that reason, I think we ought
all to subscribed to initiatives such as science and conservation commons
(http://sciencecommons.org/ http://conservationcommons.org), which
essentially call for open access to science / conservation data. This does
not mean, data can be used in any way one wants, but that licencising
schemas are available.

Regarding control of identifications, two directions might be interesting.
First, community involvement, such as being applied in rating schema in
amazon.com and other sites. There is a subjective element in it (rating from
1 to 5), plus a more formal, explaining what is good or bad.

The second is, what we have installed at antbase.org. That is, for each
author a link to his scientific work exists
(http://antbase.org/databases/directory.htm). This includes a list of all
her systematic literature, as well as other taxon related publications. It
would be easy to insert another element such as how many taxa described, how
many names with his identifications exist, and how many elements this author
added lets say to the global specimen data bank. As ususal, none of these
elements, and most likely not even the combination of, tell the truth of the
proper quality of somebodies work, but they are better than staying
completely in the dark.

Donat Agosti

Dr. Donat Agosti
Science Consultant
Research Associate, American Museum of Natural History and Naturmuseum der
Burgergemeinde Bern
Email: agosti at amnh.org
Web: http://antbase.org
Skype: agostileu
CV: http://antbase.org/agosticv_2003.html
Dalmaziquai 45
3005 Bern
+41-31-351 7152

-----Original Message-----
From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
[mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of christian thompson
Sent: Friday, June 16, 2006 6:07 PM
To: taxacom2 at achapman.org; taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: [Taxacom] Privacy laws and Science


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.

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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