[Taxacom] HHDB: hemihomonyms

Roderic Page r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk
Mon Jan 18 04:02:14 CST 2010

On 17 Jan 2010, at 23:20, Francisco Welter-Schultes wrote:
>> 2) BHL needs to code their titles (volumes) as botanical, zoological,
>> bacteriological, mixed, or not taxonomic.  This is not as big a task
>> as it might seem as entire runs of journals are often exclusively
>> botanical or zoological.
> As far as I can see, this would not be easy. Which specialists would  
> be
> paid for the indexing? I don't see any budget anywhere for that. We  
> could
> do that in the AnimalBase group. But who would pay us?
> Alternative solution: metadata could be added to works by users. I  
> made
> likewise proposals concerning other metadata, but the BHL associated
> libraries did not like that. They preferred a procedure by which users
> would have an opportunity to make suggestions, which is then  
> forwarded to
> whom it concerns, so that the library which digitized the work would
> modify the metadata.

The notion that users would "make suggestions" that the library may or  
may not accept is doomed to fail. With all due respect to libraries,  
their track record at handling metadata with the level of granularity  
required by users (other than other libraries) is pretty poor. I have  
spent more time than I care to remember dealing with poor quality  
metadata provided by digital libraries (e.g., http://iphylo.blogspot.com/2007/05/amnh-dspace-and-openurl.html 

Given the magnitude of the task, and the fact that, fundamentally,  
nobody cares as much about this stuff as taxonomists, it will have to  
be the taxonomic community that steps up to this task. And the asking  
for money thing is unlikely to get very far. If the first question is  
"who will pay us?" then we're doomed from the start.

> Possibly they would agree in such a solution for user-created  
> metadata in
> fields in which libraries are almost absolutely not skilled.
> Another problem in pre-1900 works is that OCR text recgnition is not  
> 100 %
> reliable. And if you observe an error rate of only 0.01 % in a work  
> - you
> can bet that these errors will concern exactly the taxonomic names.
> Try to search for Planorbis duryi in Wetherby 1879, Journal of the
> Cincinnati Society of Natural History 2 (2), published in p. 99.
> http://library.cincymuseum.org/starweb/journals/servlet.starweb?path=journals/STARArchives.web
> English journal, good printing quality, but you will not find it,
> incorrectly OCR'd.
>> While at it, the works might also be coded
>> by discipline: entomology, ornithology, malacology, etc.
> If you can explain a librarian the difference between malacology and
> entomology... this will be a funny job...

Furthermore, this may have unintended consequences. For the  
terrestrial biota it is not uncommon to have plant and animal names in  
the same article, even if the journal is, say, zoological. In my  
efforts to extract articles from BHL (http://biostor.org/ ) I've come  
across numerous articles on insects that are full of the names of host  

>> 4) Finally, the BHL Advanced Search option will need to allow
>> taxonomic searches to be restricted by Code, and whether unresolved
>> names should be included or excluded.
> We would have a budget to implement such a function, AIT in Austria  
> could
> be encharged to do that. But I would predict that it would not be  
> perfect.
> Which of course, should not be a reason for not trying it out.

Deciding on which code a uBio name belongs to is non-trivial, but some  
progress could be made using the "packageName" field (which records a  
-- sometimes informal -- taxonomic group to which a name belongs). Of  
course, uBio is incomplete, and if it lacks all hemihomonyms then  
there's a good chance a name may be incorrectly restricted in scope.  
There are other sources which may help, such as linking BHL content to  
names in nomenclators such as IPNI and ZooBank.

BHL content provides numerous challenges, but the notion that  
devolving key tasks to librarians will help doesn't fill me with  



> Francisco
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Roderic Page
Professor of Taxonomy
Graham Kerr Building
University of Glasgow
Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK

Email: r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk
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