[Taxacom] globalnames?

David Patterson paddy at eol.org
Wed Sep 16 09:42:35 CDT 2009


Your fear is a fair one but needs to be nuanced.  The GN environment does not create NEW data, merely indexes and exposes information that is already out there.  It cannot in principle create poor quality raw material, so I don't think you need to be concerned on that front.

What I think is legitimate is that all projects have uncertain and spasmodic funding, and so all carry the risk of being partly completed.  There are ways of minimizing this risk.  Participation of large initiatives (such as GBIF and EOL) in this endeavour helps, making the enterprise a communal endeavour and making it modular also helps (and we are also doing that), as well as a well developed plan that addresses the concerns (GGBIF especially is active in developing such a plan).


----- Original Message -----
From: dipteryx at freeler.nl
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Sent: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 9:13:59 AM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] globalnames?

Van: David Patterson [mailto:paddy at eol.org]
Verzonden: wo 16-9-2009 13:49
>Before you can fix problems, you need to know what they are.

>This listing serves minimally two masters, the taxonomist 
>and the informatician.  The informatician must be aware of 
>every 'string' that has been used as a name and therefore points 
>to some potentially useful piece of information.  Within the 
>totality of all strings lies a subset of interest to the taxonomist.
>Team taxonomy (the sum of all active taxonomists past and present) 
>has a suite of rules to follow, but within them there remains
>considerable latitude.  The GN thing is intended to develop into 
>an infrastructure that will serve all users equally well, and 
>because of this, it has to be inclusive of different points of view 
>and solutions.  It can achieve that through modularity.  At the 
>core lies the GNI module - the list of all names.  [...]

>The progress from raw material to a structure that meets all our 
>needs will be a long haul, will take much time, good will, and 
>participation.  But, the benefits of a biology integrated through a 
>semantic names-based infrastructure make the walk well worth while, 
>as are the conversations that accompany the promenade.

>David Patterson

That is very well as a general sales pitch, but the succes of any
informatics project depends on how well the structure conforms to 
the process it is supposed to automatize. For years and years,
newspapers have brought stories of beautiful and costly informatics
projects that failed to take account of the topic they were supposed 
to address and that were complete failures, being closed down, one 
after the other, without having achieved anything at all.

What appears to be happening here is the creation of extra 'raw 
material' that will have to be cleaned up at some point in future.
It strikes the fear into me that a few more projects like this and 
the mass of 'informatics-generated' raw material will have reached
the point where it itself presents an unsurmountable problem?



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David J Patterson
Senior Taxonomist, EOL
Biodiversity Informatics
Marine Biological Laboratory
Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA.

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