[Taxacom] CoL and ZooBank

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Fri Jul 9 03:45:13 CDT 2010

>I have to disagree (?) with Stephen Thorpe a wee bit, in that the target 
>audience of the major aggregators has always been more than the 'crats

Yes, the (?) is appropriate, in that there was an element of sarcasm in my post 
to which you refer (was I really "defending" the acronyms???). To talk more 
literally about it, I think that whoever the target audience(s) are, or are 
claimed to be, all you are actually left with are 'crats using the acronyms as 
rubber stamps (and perhaps also inquisitive children browsing EoL for fun ... 
two extremes of a continuum?)

having said that, I still get the impression from Bob that he only cares about 
what he personally can get out of bioinformatics databases, and perhaps doesn't 
give due consideration to other user's needs. IMHO, everyone (taxonomist, 'crat, 
inquisitive child, ...) would benefit from a fully integrated, comprehensive, 
and reliable bioinformatics database

My problem is (in part) that many acronyms promise one thing but fail miserably 
to deliver on those promises. My example from last posting was CoL saying that 
it peer reviews its data providers, but numerous weevil names are missing from 
CoL, despite one of their data providers (WTaxa) claiming to have them all. The 
actual harvesting of the names from the sources is pretty automated, so if CoL 
aren't actually "peer reviewing" the sources to the extent that they notice 
glaring problems, then what the heck are they doing? Worse is that CoL pretends 
to be "oh so reliable and authoritative", so someone noticing a disparity 
between true data and CoL data is likely to believe CoL ...


From: Bob Mesibov <mesibov at southcom.com.au>
To: TAXACOM <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
Sent: Fri, 9 July, 2010 8:11:30 PM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] CoL and ZooBank

How nice to get home after a long winter's day field trip and find a nice, hot 
Taxacom thread at which to warm myself.

I have to disagree (?) with Stephen Thorpe a wee bit, in that the target 
audience of the major aggregators has always been more than the 'crats. To avoid 
being accused of quoting out of context, I here provide 2 links to the publicly 
announced visions of EoL:


It's clear that founder E.O. Wilson and founding Executive Director James 
Edwards, at least, wanted to build a single portal to all available species 
information that can be accessed anytime, anywhere, by anyone with a Net 
connection. The 'systemic failures' I referred to in an earlier post don't have 
to do with this particular goal, which is obviously impossible to achieve in any 
case. I was thinking of those of us who do systematics - taxonomically inclined 
users. Our time is wasted if we depend on such portals.

EoL, at least, had us in mind. Wilson said in the second linked piece above "It 
[EoL] will ensure that existing knowledge is freely available to anyone, 
everywhere, at any time. And, most important, it will accelerate the discovery 
of the unknown species", but didn't explain how that acceleration was supposed 
to happen. Edwards thought of us, too, a little: ' "We have not given enough 
thought to the people who provide the information on which the Encyclopedia of 
Life is built," Dr. Edwards acknowledged. "We are looking into ways to keep that 
community going." ' And "Dr. Wilson hopes the Encyclopedia of Life will foster 
the growth of that group."

As for other users, such as conservation bureaucrats - I don't think they should 
be allowed to see any biodiversity information without supervision. The 
consequences of their making decisions without expert advice from specialists 
are potentially much worse than those from allowing children to see pornography 
on the Net. Every bureaucrat needs at least one Biodiversity Nanny.

While I wait for Rich Pyle's promised response-in-depth, here's my bias: as a 
zoologist, all I want is ZooBank (extended backwards in time, too, but that can 
wait, and tied to what Thomson Reuters now manage) and specialist-produced, 
online resources for particular groups. If those resources want to link with 
aggregators, fine, but if there's an advantage to specialists from such linking, 
it isn't obvious to me.
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
Webpage: http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/?articleID=570


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