[Taxacom] encylopedia of life

Richard Zander Richard.Zander at mobot.org
Mon May 14 09:41:29 CDT 2007

Well, it is a lot easier and more satisfying to find fault, of course,
so I almost ignored your question. On the other hand, to be fair, GIVEN
the existence of EoL . . . 

Indispensable? (I also assume that you don't mean "required." An
institution could require EoL, perhaps just by required citation,
perhaps by canceling subscriptions to elements provided by EoL.) If the
EoL will gather information from other sources on the Web, then it can't
be totally indispensable since it is not unique in its parts.

I suppose if EoL could put in one place the many things on the Web that
I am now relying on: access to older literature, databases of specimens
and types, images, nomenclatural data, authority abbreviations, and the
like, then that would be great. It wouldn't be indispensable, but would
be much more convenient.

If the EoL pages were not signed and dated by one author or agreeing
committee, I could (should) not cite a page in a publication. Thus,
although the information would be great and at times phenomenal, just as
on the Wikipedia, citation is a problem and one would have to consult
the (usually hardcopy) literature cited on the page for items for
attribution. The same is true with changes in the page: even if one
author wrote a page and later made changes, citation must be of a page
saved in time; I think the Wikipedia does this, maybe only by
fragmentary increment.

Thus, the EoL cannot, because of limitations of its data-mining model,
and inherent quasi-committee style (as far as I can understand from the
information given out about it), ever be indispensable. 

On the other hand, if EoL were an open source means of publication and
one could publish personally attributable papers, perhaps in a somewhat
flexible but standardize format, this would be attractive. 
We already have http://www.scientificjournals.org/index.php "US$99.95"
and http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/policies.php "US$1500 or
whatever you can pay", but one place for a description would be
excellent. Limitations to that are
1. We cannot validly publish new taxa on the Web.
2. A taxonomic work that is not about one (new) taxon is not usually
about one species, but about the (keyed) relationships of several
species. Single pages are limiting and would encourage a very narrow
concept of taxonomy. 

If the EoL published keys, lots of keys that overlapped and presented
different points of view, what a fine thing that could be.

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

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Shorthouse, David [mailto:dps1 at ualberta.ca]
> Sent: Sunday, May 13, 2007 8:57 PM
> To: Richard Zander; Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Subject: RE: [Taxacom] encylopedia of life
> Richard,
> What would make EoL indispensable for you? If you had your say in its
> architecture, what would you want?

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