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

Jim Croft jrc at anbg.gov.au
Sun Jun 18 18:00:51 CDT 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 better
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 of the
world expert, or something in between.

The next most important thing is the date.  It is probably a reasonable
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 it
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.


-----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 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. 


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