[Taxacom] ITIS, Species 2000, etc.

David Remsen dremsen at gbif.org
Wed May 30 10:37:36 CDT 2007

Dear G.B. Edwards

Your suggestion is complementary to one of the outcomes of a meeting held
in February in Crete.  This meeting, dubbed Nomina 1, was sponsored by
GBIF, the fledgling EOL Informatics efforts, and MarBef/PROPE Taxon. 
Attendees included representatives of the Catalogue of Life partnership,
some of the COLP providers of global species datasets, various
nomenclators, TDWG, and potential users of taxonomic and nomenclatural
information.  This group was representative of the sort of agencies and
actors who seek to provide, exchange, collate, and use taxonomic

Among the outcomes was a desire to develop a meta-catalog of taxonomic and
nomenclatural resources of those who may be sources of authoritative
information.  It would include the sort of resource (or initiative)-level
information you refer but would include the capacity to provide the
catalog with indices of names treated by these initiatves and pointers to
relevant records.  These initiatives might also present the means by which
they serve their data to potential data consumers and the catalogue could
also provide links to tools that enable such provision.

A goal of such a catalog is to facilitate discovery of, and access to,
taxonomic information in a manner that balances utility with attribution
and support of providers.   So knowing what initiatives are out there and
how they inter-relate is really important. It would enable the Catalogue
of Life to identify potential global species dataset providers.  It would
give taxonomic initiatives a means to identify their taxonomic resources
within a global context.  It would provide EOL and GBIF with a common
framework for pursuing common objectives.

I like your idea of an included glossary of acronyms and I could forsee it
expanding to  address other terms and concepts that seem to lead to
regular miscommunication.

GBIF and the Encyclopedia of Life are interested in developing a version
of such an index and plan to pursue this more seriously as EOL moves into
operation.  If you, and anyone else, is interested in further discussion I
would love to be included.

Best wishes,
David Remsen

Senior Programme Officer
Electronic Catalog of Names of Known Organisms
Global Biodiversity Information Facility Secretariat
Universitetsparken 15, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark
Tel: +45-35321472   Fax: +45-35321480

> I appreciate the comments of Anna, Mary, Rich, Rod and others on this
> subject, and the information links provided, but in many cases, those
> are for the one organization each is most associated with.  Not that
> this isn't useful, but...
> Seems to me what we need is an Encyclopedia of Taxonomic Initiatives (or
> maybe a Reader's Digest Version) which would give us the acronym or
> title, what it means, what it's purpose is, where it's located, and who
> it's contact people are (see those listed below plus a "whole host of
> other initiatives", many of which have come up in subsequent
> discussions).  Also needed is a glossary of acronyms used within each
> organization.  Obviously people who are already involved know what these
> initiatives are, but I suspect there are many others who might want to
> be involved in something, but don't want to wade through looking up the
> specs for a bunch of organizations to find one that seems to fit what
> they would be willing to do.  Not to mention how helpful it would be to
> know the most appropriate place to go for a particular type of taxonomic
> information, or to find out that there actually is an organization that
> databases some obscure group.  Yes, you can Google, but then you're
> still wading through thousands of responses, and you'll probably miss
> some of the initiatives.  There are just too many for any one person to
> keep track of.
> How about if the organizers of every initiative send in their
> information to a central website which can then be made available to
> everyone (offers to host?).  Maybe some of the paralysis will be lifted
> if people know what their options are.  Might bring some of those
> private collections into the fold.  Might even be a good start to
> organizing the taxonomic community.
> --
> G. B. Edwards
> Florida State Collection of Arthropods
> ...One of the goals of the Encyclopedia of Life is to work with groups
> like
> uBio, GBIF, ITIS, Species2000, IPNI, Index Fungorum, ZooBank, BHL, and a
> whole host of other initiatives who deal with taxonomic names to
> establish
> what David Remsen of GBIF calls the "BIG Index" (I'll defer to David for
> elaboration of the name).  This would be a giant index of these "usage
> instances", or the "facts" of taxonomy, as I defined them above (e.g.,
> Smith, 2001, treated "Aus xus" as a junior synonym of "Aus bus").
> Building
> such a comprehensive index is a monumental task, far outside the scope
> of
> any single initiative like ITIS or Species2000 or most of the others.
> But
> it's not outside the scope of the collective taxonomic community as a
> whole;
> which is why ideas like All Species, GBIF's ECAT, and EoL (the latter
> being
> the most robustly funded) are so fundamentally important to serve as a
> "flag
> pole" around which we can all congregate and coordinate our efforts.
> ...
> I share your feeling that paralysis is the usual response. What
> continually astounds me is how little people are aware of the
> groundwork that already exists. Most of the issues (GUIDs, generating
> identifiers, searching based on journal metadata) have already been
> solved, in some cases (SICIs, OpenURL) a decade ago.
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