[Taxacom] globalnames?

Wolfgang Lorenz faunaplan at googlemail.com
Thu Sep 17 14:30:52 CDT 2009

Thanks for plenty of comments on- and off-list!
Aggregating and interpreting all existing taxon names in order to facilitate
access to biodiversity knowledge is an immense task. I'm just asking myself,
is it trying the impossible, so far?

In my opinion, a solid construction should stand on three legs.
E.g., datasets provided to the GBIF portal can only be interpreted correctly
when 3 things are given:
1) Digitized authentic original data
2) Nomenclatural status information, needed to detect misspellings, etc.
3) Taxonomic status information, needed for correct name interpretation.

What do we really have so far?

1) In many datasets provided to the GBIF portal it's hardly possible to
detect the authentic original information. E.g., are names taken verbatim
from specimen labels?, or collection box labels? were the names already
interpreted or standardized by the database manager in the original dataset?
If so, who then is responsible for that interpretation?

2) Checking the nomenclatural status of a name is an indispensable but
extremely time-consuming work step, never without pitfalls even when experts
are involved. We have no complete index, neither online nor printed, of all
available species-, genus-, or family-group names in zoology. Lots of
unresolved homonyms everywhere, more new homonyms still being created every
year. The great ZooBank idea in a very early stage, still without
substantial funding. Very few experts who could provide solid background
information, and money doesn't seem to be available for such experts.
We cannot detect misspellings when we don't know the correct spellings, and
a misspelling can always be a good name too (e.g., "Microus" can be a
misspelled mouse genus - =Microtus - or a correct ground beetle genus, - see
example in GBIF!). An authoritative ZooBank could be an immense help.

3) When we want to interpret a taxonomic name (taxonNameUsage), we can only
do it on the basis of a comprehensive, up-to-date classification. Without
such current point of view it's impossible to interpret previously applied
names aggregated from literature, collection labels, etc. Regularly updated
checklists, however, are available for just a few groups and many of these
resources are inaccessible to GBIF.

So, given that reality, isn't it trying the impossible, so far?

The "target 2010" was not achievable, - and it was never measurable. Now
discussions have started on more realistic post-2010 targets.
What about proposing a solid sub-target for biodiversity information? Based
on the pioneer work done so far, I'm sure it could even be formulated with a
realistic financial calculation. As, in the above mentioned basic work
areas, such a target would be perfectly measurable:

1) Standardized digitization of existing authentic original data on specimen
labels in major public collections and in literature.

2) ZooBank as a complete, authoritative database for all nomenclatural
information on zoological names.

3) A "database central" - Bill Eschmeyer's idea posted to the ICZN list -
for all taxonomic databases independently managed by taxon experts, with
interfaces between these databases and the major global name aggregators.
This "database central" could provide reliable and up-to-date taxonomic
status information for biodiversity informatics.

With these 3 legs, global initiatives like GBIF, EoL, etc etc could stand on
a solid foundation and do a much better job.
Just some ideas...


Wolfgang Lorenz, Tutzing, Germany

2009/9/17 Richard Pyle <deepreef at bishopmuseum.org>

> Paul,
> It is clear from your responses (post trimmed to just the header, for the
> benefit of the digesters) that I have consistently failed to explain the
> purpose and value of GNI.  I will leave it to someone more articulate than
> I
> am to attempt to explain it more effectively.
> Aloha,
> Rich
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> > [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of
> > dipteryx at freeler.nl
> > Sent: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 11:55 PM
> > To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> > Subject: Re: [Taxacom] globalnames?
> >
> > Van: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu namens Richard Pyle
> > Verzonden: do 17-9-2009 11:01
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