[Taxacom] the hurdle for all biodiv informatics initiatives

dipteryx at freeler.nl dipteryx at freeler.nl
Sat Feb 20 04:12:27 CST 2010

Van: Stephen Thorpe [mailto:s.thorpe at auckland.ac.nz]
Verzonden: za 20-2-2010 0:14
Hi Paul,
A frequent complaint you seem to voice about all biodiversity databases, including Wikispecies, is that they don't, by your estimation, contain much in the way of "useful" information. To my mind, however, they function to organise vast numbers references (preferably with links of some kind to those references) in a taxonomic way. The "useful information" is contained in the references, and not in the database per se. This is certainly how I view Wikispecies - a vast taxonomically organised library/bibliography, supplemented where possible with images...

Yes, among the concerns I have voiced (consistently, I hope, rather 
than "frequently") is that the biodiversity databases appear to be 
mostly empty infrastructure, waiting for content to (magically?) 
manifest itself. (The only aspect where content is 'magically' 
manifesting itself is in the form of pictures: a surprising amount 
of pictures is available on the web, in great part from books 
that by their age have entered the public domain, but also from 
enthusiastic photographers)

In how far references can yield this "useful information" is an open
question. For some species the original description or the most recent
monograph will yield state-of-the-art information. However, this will
not universally, or even generally, be the case: often a lot more 
information will exist. In extreme cases so much information exists for 
a single species that even a mere bibliography can be daunting.
But certainly it is very desirable for Wikispecies (or any biodiversity
initiative) to list (taxon by taxon) what taxonomic treatment is being
followed (backed up by a reference where necessary). Most parts of
Wikispecies that I have seen fall short of this standard.


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