[Taxacom] Sorry, but you are out-of-line

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Sun Nov 14 02:31:18 CST 2010

Don Colless wrote:

>Please understand that I was NOT attacking the idea of 
>centralisation of data, etc. Just the idea that electronic storage 
>is completely safe and permanent, which I believe is not the case.

I *do* understand that, and that's exactly why I originally said that 
what you are referring to is NOT pertinent in any way to what we are 
debating; we are discussing what *we as a community* should do about 
electronic publication, and why. What you are referring to is your 
(or any other person's) PERSONAL ability to maintain a private 
digital archive (which is, as you correctly believe, NOT completely 
safe or permanent), and this is an entirely different issue from a 
centralized database like GenBank (which IS completely safe and 
permanent). You are objecting to the latter because of your 
experience with the former, and they are simply not comparable! You 
MUST distinguish between private versus community archives, or the 
debate will circle endlessly.

I'll say it again:

Digital archiving done privately = unacceptable for individuals and 
*especially* for us as a community, and not under discussion.

Digital archiving done as GenBank does it = EXACTLY what we as a 
community need, and what we have been proposing all along.

They are independent issues, and neither I nor Rich nor Donat are 
talking about the former - and we never have been - so bringing it up 
repeatedly only sidetracks the discussion into destructive and 
confusing tangents, getting us fighting with one another when we're 
not even on the *same topic*. It's effectively a Straw Man; you're 
attacking something other than the actual subject of the debate.

>The analogy with money under the mattress was badly drawn, too. I 
>used the example of my own personally stored data as just that, an 
>example of the difficulties in electronic storage.

Which is how I knew that you and I were talking about completely 
different things, and why that did and continues to make me despair - 
your example of how *personal* data storage is bad - which EVERYONE 
ACKNOWLEDGES - has no bearing on whether *centralized* data storage 
is good or bad. It seems that it is virtually impossible for me to 
make myself understood and get everyone to drop this stuff about what 
PRIVATE electronic archives are like. If you find yourself about to 
make a criticism, or give an example, ask yourself whether it applies 
to GenBank - and if it doesn't, then it doesn't apply to what we are 
discussing here.

Basically, if you have nothing bad to say about GenBank, then you 
have nothing bad to say about electronic data archives as we envision 
them for use by the taxonomic community. That's why I said earlier 
that you *should* be on our side. On the other hand, if you don't 
believe that GenBank is safe or permanent, then I submit that you 
really, truly, don't understand what GenBank is. Aside from ACTUAL 
banks, and governments, it might be the most secure multinational 
database in existence (maybe there's a global database of weather 
data, which would also be expected to be quite secure). People have 
simply invested TOO MUCH in GenBank to ever let anything happen to 
it, and it's valuable to all sorts of people, all over the world - 
and that's exactly the thing we need to exploit: if we want an 
archive that works, it has to be *universal*, *indispensable* and 
*irreplaceable*, just like GenBank is. That is what will guarantee 
its safety and permanence.


Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314        skype: dyanega
phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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