[Taxacom] Species Pages - purpose
r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk
Wed Feb 4 10:45:50 CST 2009
My sense of this thread is that some people are arguing that "species
pages" would be time consuming to create, aren't much good for
taxonomists (to quote Mike Dallwitz "In brief, to make simplified and
attractive information about taxa easily available to casual users?"),
and nobody gets credit for making them. In short, "they're not for me,
I don't get credit for making them, so why bother?"
Others (e.g., Doug Yanega) see species pages -- properly constructed
-- to be a research tool. If we extend this to its logical conclusion,
we could envisage these pages being the primary source of information
on taxa. Indeed, new taxa could be described in this way. In short,
"this is the future of taxonomic publication".
One obvious way to realise species pages sensu Doug is using a wiki,
but then there are those that horrified by the prospect of just
"anyone" being able to edit that content. In short, "wikis are not for
serious people, the ignorant might mess up my stuff". Others have had
a more positive experience.
I realise this doesn't do justice to these positions, but this make
things a little concrete, I've put together a demo based on a wiki I'm
constructing. The aim of this wiki is to link together taxonomic
names, specimens, images, classifications, publications, phylogeny,
people in one place. It's a bit like a wiki version of my Elsevier
Challenge entry http://iphylo.org/~rpage/challenge/www/ .
This is some way off being ready for prime time, but I thought it
might be useful to show the sort of thing that can be done.
As a starting point, /itaxon.org/wikidev/Chromis_circumaurea is a page
about Chromis circumaurea, one of the fish Rich Pyle et al recently
described in Zootaxa. This page contains a map and some specimen
images, and an abbreviated description copied from the Zootaxa
article. The images and the map are generated automaticaly by the
wiki, based on the links it has to the specimens, e.g.
The USNM specimen is linked to a GenBank sequence http://itaxon.org/wikidev/EU358583
. Specimens themselves are linked to Museum collections (using data
from http://biocol.org ).
The name itself is linked to a publication
which is also linked to the authors. The wiki supports GUIDs, so that
you can link to the page about Chromis circumaurea using it's ZooBank
LSID, for example: http://itaxon.org/wikidev/Urn:lsid:zoobank.org:act:8ADC4817-8F1C-4C88-8B8A-5372A84CAEC9
What I hope this crude example demonstrates is a framework where we
can support all the kinds of objects we care about, and easily create
links between them that can generate useful information. For example,
the page for Chromis circumaurea doesn't explicitly list the images
shown, they are there because of the links between Chromis
circumaurea, the specimens, and the images of those specimens. The
same applies to the map. What this means is that very little
information needs be entered, it's mostly a matter of joining the dots.
Note that these wiki pages already have more information than either
iSpecies (http://ispecies.org/?q=Chromis+circumaurea ) or EOL (http://www.eol.org/pages/209986
This example has been assembled by hand, but much of the data required
can be entered automatically (e.g., for sequences, specimens,
publications, etc.), and tools such as text mining or XML markup
(e.g., TaxonX) could be easily exploited. I also realise that the
demos as it stands as very limited information about the organism
itself, but I don't this this as intractable.
If we could build things like this (and I believe we can, with a lot
less effort than might be thought), is this the kind of "species page"
that would be useful?
PS If you're curious about the ideas behind this wiki, you'l find some
background at http://iphylo.blogspot.com/search?q=wiki
Professor of Taxonomy
Graham Kerr Building
University of Glasgow
Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK
Email: r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk
Tel: +44 141 330 4778
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AIM: rodpage1962 at aim.com
Home page: http://taxonomy.zoology.gla.ac.uk/rod/rod.html
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