[Taxacom] iSpecies with Wikipedia

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Mon Mar 31 13:30:37 CDT 2008

Thanks, Paul.

My reference to digitization of "neural connections within human brains" was
intended mostly as a fancy way of saying "streamline the manuscript
generation process, in a way that captures structured digital data".  I'll
leave the discussion of copyright issues (and possible ways around them) to
Donat Agosti; but one presumes that when scientists transcribe the "neural
connections" to a manuscript intended for publication, their intent is to
make that information accessible to everyone else. Capturing that
information in a structured, digital form at the time of MS generation, such
that it can be made available and more discoverable via the internet, only
enhances the accessibility.

I completely agree with you that there are parts of the neural connections
that are not easily transcribed to either ink-on-paper or structured digital
information.  Although it would be fantastic to find a way to more
effectively capture that somehow; my point was concerning the less ambitious
goal of streamlining the existing process of information dissemination.

As to the "cost or encumberance"; the point was that I believe there are
ways to reduce the *existing* cost and encumberance that scientists already
endure when transcribing information into manuscript form, intended for
ink-on-paper publication.  Many cyber-reluctant taxonomists immediately
assume that extra work will be required in order to make their results and
conclusions available in electronic form -- that is, extra work over and
above the work they already do in preparing manuscripts.

My point is that with the right software, we could have a "win-win"
situation where manuscripts are easier to generate than they currently are
with standard word processors (e.g., via automatic capture and formatting of
morphological and molecular character data into tables, diagnoses and
descriptions; synonomies; Bibliographic citations; etc.; etc.), *AND* the
underlying information can be available simultaneously as both a formatted
MS intended for paper-based publication and as structured electronic data
(TaxonX/taXMLit, SDD, TCS, etc.) -- thereby alleviating the need for someone
else to retroactively scan/capture the information in a structured
electronic form.

Put another way, it's easier to generate a publishable MS from structured
electronic information, than it is to retroactively capture structured
electronic information from a published MS.

Most of the component pieces already exist to do this (e.g., DELTA, SDD,
TCS, and various other TDWG standards & protocols). We just need a software
application that can harness all of this stuff in a way that saves a
taxonomist time in generating manuscripts, while simultaneously generating
structured information behind the scenes. The tricky part is making this
software luddite-simple to use.

Thus, my inclusion of the word "net" in "without any net cost or
encumberance to practicing taxonomists" was intended to mean "as compared to
the cost and encumberance taxonomists already endure when generating
manuscripts".  And in this context, speaking as an "old-school"-trained
morphology-based alpha taxonomist, yes -- I do see this as one of the keys
to moving forward with taxonomy.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu 
> [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Paul 
> van Rijckevorsel
> Sent: Sunday, March 30, 2008 10:15 PM
> To: taxacom
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] iSpecies with Wikipedia
> From: "Richard Pyle" <deepreef at bishopmuseum.org>
> > I don't see this as an argument about algorithms vs. 
> smoke-filled rooms.
> > I see this as an argument about the urgent need to 
> "electronify" the 
> > source information.  Most of this now exists as ink on paper, and 
> > neural connections within human brains.  Both sets of 
> information need 
> > to be transcribed into standard, structured, electronic form if we 
> > ever want to realize the true potential of the internet for solving 
> > taxonomy/biodiversity needs.  Organizations like BHL and Plazi and 
> > others are making strides towards transforming the 
> ink-on-paper into 
> > electronic format.  Now the "buzz" talk seems to be 
> shifting towards a "killer app"
> > that *helps* (rather than encumbers or distracts) practicing 
> > taxonomists, in a way that allows them to much more easily 
> transcribe 
> > the information contained in their cerebral neural 
> connections into a 
> > format that can then be  simulatneously available as standardized, 
> > structured electronic content, and in a form that can also 
> be printed as ink on paper.
> > Enabling the electronic capture of these two bodies of 
> (comparatively) 
> > diffiult-to-access information resources -- without any net cost or 
> > encumberance to practicing taxonomists -- is, in my mind, 
> the key to 
> > moving forward with "cybertaxonomy".
> ***
> The issues surrounding the digitization of printed matter are 
> well known, copyright figuring heavily among them.
> However, the digitization of "neural connections within human 
> brains" comes with its own set of issues. Here also, there is 
> the matter of ownership, not only of the person who invested 
> years of work and experience in his human brain, but in many 
> cases also of the institute he works for, and the government 
> who financed this work.
> Leaving this aside, it is not an easy matter to digitize 
> "neural connections within human brains": in many cases the 
> most valuable information is of a nature that so far eluded 
> easy capture. In some fields of expertise it is possible for 
> an expert to go into the field and identify the most notable 
> species within a, say, fifty meter radius within seconds. 
> How? With the ever increasing possiblities to make 
> photographic images (and sound recordings) it is now easier 
> to gather such information in the field, but this does not go 
> for information existing in the "neural connections within 
> human brains".
> Also, the "without any net cost or encumberance to practicing 
> taxonomists"
> sounds facile. If some bit of information is to be put into 
> words, this is not without without "cost or encumberance": it 
> does take precious time and considerable effort to be precise 
> (not to mention the fear that once something has been 
> digitized, it will then be torn out of context, as by 
> Zipcodezoo.com, and distorted). No doubt there exist very 
> many, as yet unpublished, photographs in various archives, 
> which would be very useful if they could be digitized, but 
> this too may require not-insignificant time and effort, 
> depending on how well-documented they are.
> So, digitization may be "the key to moving forward with 
> "cybertaxonomy"."
> but this does not necessarily mean it is the key to moving 
> forward with taxonomy?
> Paul
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