[Taxacom] globalnames?

Bob Mesibov mesibov at southcom.com.au
Thu Sep 17 20:03:05 CDT 2009

Wolfgang Lorenz wrote:

"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... "

Excellent ideas! especially 'database central' with separate database management by taxon specialists.

I'd also like to kick out and away the 4th leg that Richard Pyle and some others seem to want to stick underneath the bioinformatics infrastructure. Names are not an adequate link to biodiversity information. In biodiversity documentation - whether species/higher taxon lists from sophisticated ecology projects in 2009 or nature notes from some short-lived lepidopteran newsletter of the 1930s - both scientific and common names can be wrong or simply missing*.

Name harvesting from digitised literature and other sources is just that, name harvesting. Harvesting the biodiversity information that Rich says 'MANY MANY MANY' people want is done best by human processing. Taxon specialists are the people to do this, but trained librarians are nearly as good. Grabbing only the biodiversity information tightly and neatly linked to names not only guarantees confusion and errors, it also guarantees a shallow and uninformed result.

I can hear Rich grumbling as he reads this, muttering 'But name harvesting would assist taxon specialists to find sources they might otherwise miss.' Maybe. But it would hide those sources in a mess that I, for one, wouldn't have the patience to sift through.

*Yes, missing. There are many, many valuable documentations of loosely categorised species ('caterpillar', 'worm'), and it's often the case that only a human, reading the report or studying the pictures carefully and applying prior knowledge, could possibly decode just what the report is talking about. In the past week I've experienced a case of this from a compilation of 'animals eaten by birds', and I also corrected the genus placement of a name-tagged millipede image posted on Flickr.

First and last post before a holiday...
Dr Robert Mesibov
Honorary Research Associate
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and
School of Zoology, University of Tasmania
Home contact: PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
(03) 64371195; 61 3 64371195
Website: http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/mesibov.html

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