[Taxacom] CoL and ZooBank

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Thu Jul 8 21:25:22 CDT 2010

>Perhaps you could tell me how these entities could describe what their 
>intentions are, in such a way that doesn't meet your mischaracterization as 
>"little disclaimers"?
Well, that is just the point! I think Bob would agree that these entities have 
created themselves before working out exactly what it is that they are supposed 
to be doing. It depends a little on the particular "entity", so let's consider 
some examples:

(1) EoL: on their main page (http://www.eol.org/) they quote:
"Imagine an electronic page for each species of organism on Earth..." - Edward 
O. Wilson
Well, I can imagine it, certainly, ... it is called Wikispecies!
Next look at the "Who are we" page (http://www.eol.org/content/page/who_we_are), 
which pontificates wildly. There is so much propaganda here, I hardly know where 
to start! Suffice it to say that take out all the rhetoric and you are left with 
nothing much different to Wikispecies.
(2) CoL:
> The Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life is planned to become a comprehensive 
>catalogue of all known species of organisms on Earth. Rapid progress has been 
>made recently and this, the tenth edition of the Annual Checklist, contains 
>1,257,735 species. Please note that this is probably just about 2/3 of the 
>world's known species. This means that for many groups it continues to be 
>deficient, and users will notice that many species are still missing from the 
The present Catalogue is compiled with sectors provided by 77 taxonomic 
databases from around the world. Many of these contain taxonomic data and 
opinions from extensive networks of specialists, so that the complete work 
contains contributions from more than 3,000 specialists from throughout the 
taxonomic profession. Species 2000 and ITIS teams peer review databases, select 
appropriate sectors and integrate the sectors into a single coherent catalogue 
with a single hierarchical classification. It is planned to introduce 
alternative taxonomic treatments and alternative classifications, but an 
important feature is that for those users who wish to use it, a single preferred 
catalogue, based on peer reviews, will continue to be provided. 

Let me paraphrase it:
'We select what we consider to be the reliable sources of biological name data 
and harvest them each year, integrating them into a single consistent 
classification (in future we plan to provide alternative classifications in 
parallel). As new source databases arise and pass our judgement of reliability, 
we will add them...'
as we have already notes on Taxacom, there are many problems which result in a 
nontrivial proportion of even the most basic name information being incorrect - 
and all you get at best is just the most basic name information ...
for example, the result of a search for Anthribidae (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) 
is most alarming:
WTaxa: Electronic Catalogue of Weevil names (Curculionoidea) 
 (http://wtaxa.csic.es/) is one of their contributing databases, and this 
database should certainly have all the genera at least sorted out - they claim: 
'Currently the database contains some 100.000 names, including all generic and 
family-group names, in their current taxonomic position, and based on 
Alonso-Zarazaga & Lyal's (1999, 2002)'
my list of currently valid anthribid genera from N.Z. is here: 
can anyone please explain to me why the following genera in my list are missing 
from the Anthribidae browse list for CoL 2010 Annual Checklist???
There are also some junior synonyms listed as valid (e.g. Doticus), etc.
It just isn't good enough, and given the disparity between my list and CoL, most 
users will likely choose to trust CoL, and assume that I don't know what I'm 
talking about  ...
In this case the problem might in fact lie with WTaxa(?), but then where is the 
"peer review" vetting by CoL of the contributiing databases?????? If WTaxa 
claims to have all the generic names (which it does so claim), but doesn't have 
them, and CoL accepts it as a source, then something has gone very wrong and the 
user of CoL ain't getting what they have been promised by CoL ...

From: Richard Pyle <deepreef at bishopmuseum.org>
To: Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>; Bob Mesibov 
<mesibov at southcom.com.au>; TAXACOM <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
Sent: Fri, 9 July, 2010 1:20:06 PM
Subject: RE: [Taxacom] CoL and ZooBank

I think that's a disingenuous assesment on your part, Stephen.  It's much more a 
"trick" to include only part of a quote; especially one that excludes the VERB 
of the sentence!  It is *not* a "trick" to make a statement about what the 
effort is *intended* to be.  The only people who could possibly be misled by the 
statements are the ones who read it out of context (as you posted on Taxacom).  
Perhaps you could tell me how these entities could describe what their 
intentions are, in such a way that doesn't meet your mischaracterization as 
"little disclaimers"?

From: Stephen Thorpe [mailto:stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz] 
>Sent: Thursday, July 08, 2010 1:54 PM
>To: Richard Pyle; Bob Mesibov; TAXACOM
>Subject: Re: [Taxacom] CoL and ZooBank
>Well, in "misleading advertising land", little disclaimers like "is planned to 
>become" or "aims to create", although they technically do the trick, are in 
>reality just part of the toolkit of the rhetorician. At any rate, the point is 
>that if they continue doing things the way that they are currently doing things, 
>then their plans and aims, even if achieved, will in reality fall far short of 
>being as good as what they imply...
From: Richard Pyle <deepreef at bishopmuseum.org>
>To: Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>; Bob Mesibov 
><mesibov at southcom.com.au>; TAXACOM <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
>Sent: Fri, 9 July, 2010 11:30:58 AM
>Subject: RE: [Taxacom] CoL and ZooBank
>I realize you are intending to defend (somewhat) the acronyms.  But you of
>all people, who are sensitive to quotes out of context, should be ashamed of
>this bit of your recent post:
>> I agree 
>> that they can be rightly criticised for a bit of "misleading 
>> advertising", i.e.
>> >"a comprehensive catalogue of all known species of organisms 
>> on Earth" 
>> >(CoL) and "a uniform and validated index to the world's 
>> known species" (Species2000)?
>The first quote (CoL) is preceded by "is planned to become"; and the second
>quote (Species2000) is preceeded by "aims to create".
>Again, I realize the point of your post was to play Devil's advocate, and
>defend the acronyms (somewhat); but it sort of falls flat when you
>misrepresent the quotes as you did above.
>I'm working on a much longer reply to Bob's posts now.


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