[Taxacom] encylopedia of life [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]

jrc jrc at anbg.gov.au
Fri May 11 04:04:33 CDT 2007

Richard - you might want to keep your eye on the developing 'Australian
Plant Census', built on the Australian Plant Name Index.

This is a collaborative project of the Australian botanical community,
working through the c. 20k vascular plant species one family at a time,
accounting for all names and synonyms, considering and documenting
alternative taxonomies, and extracting by consensus a taxonomy considered
most appropriate to be used at a national level.  The selected view is not
always the latest, and there is no compulsion on anyone to use this view -
it is just there as the 'assessed best guess' based on available
information, for those who wish to use it.

So far, the project has been going very well, there has been very little
deadlocking and 'dying in the ditch' and it is possible that the first pass
will be completed in a year or so.

As a result of this exercise in collaboration we are achieving some
convergence of views and understanding across the country and we are a
getting a better handle on where the real taxonomic pinch points are which
will help focus future research.  It turns out that we are not on as many
different pages as we thought we were - and were we are on different pages
we are learning where and why we are.  We will soon be able to let you know
how much of the taxonomy of the Australian vascular plant flora is currently
in dispute - guesstimates have ranged between 5% and 20%.  This will not
tell us of course how much it is just plain wrong.  :)

We are about to start a project mapping different taxonomic systems to each
other.  We are hoping that when this is in place being on different pages
might not matter quite as much as we thought it did.

What we are trying to achieve is 'a' view, rather than 'one' view.


-----Original Message-----
From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
[mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Richard Zander
Sent: Friday, 11 May 2007 7:29 AM
To: Bjarte.Jordal at bio.uib.no; Frederick W. Schueler
Cc: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] encylopedia of life

There's a major problem with a wiki natural history of Earth. Clearly
space should be made for conflicting opinions between specialists. For
instance MUST the most recent specialists always trump the older ones;
that is, is science ALWAYS built on the work of those who come before
and therefore be incrementally better and progressive, or is it
sometimes just wrong? How to judge?

Or between groups at loggerheads, like Coders versus Phylocoders, like
those who follow APG and those who don't, or like you and everyone else?
: )

At some point, it should be easy to make a choice within EofL of which
elements to follow, just as we select certain identification manuals to
consult and avoid others. 

To avoid monolithic structure, the EofL needs to be more than a wiki
kind of compilation since that assumes consensus or at least progress
toward one truth, while real-life science offers a series of parallel
judgments and often clear explanation of how those judgments differ, and
results in several models of "what is out there." Or am I being overly
postmodern here?

Richard H. Zander 
Voice: 314-577-0276
Missouri Botanical Garden
PO Box 299
St. Louis, MO 63166-0299 USA
richard.zander at mobot.org
Web sites: http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/resbot/
and http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/bfna/bfnamenu.htm
For FedEx and UPS use:
Missouri Botanical Garden
4344 Shaw Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63110
> However, once data are in
> the
> databases and properly curated, these data will be there for
ethernity, or
> eventually until the specialist revise the species page
> Bjarte Jordal (PhD)
> Department of Biology
> University of Bergen

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