[Taxacom] A simple solution?

Tony.Rees at csiro.au Tony.Rees at csiro.au
Sun Nov 14 19:05:39 CST 2010

Dear all,

Perhaps I might draw attention to the element missing from the discussions to date, which understandably started as e-only vs. paper publications, and now has moved into registration of nomenclatural acts (I think) and online archiving/access to the original publications in which these occur.

The reason that these tasks (significant as they are) are not the total answer is that they are not what the "clients" of taxonomy require - the aforementioned activities deal with nomenclature specifically, but the "clients" in the real world require taxonomic opinions / checklists of valid taxa / synonymies etc. in a hierarchical classification, for the information to be generally useful. So the addition of the taxonomic component to create an "index of life" according to the latest expert / consensus opinions (with alternatives / disputes noted as required) is the "killer app" which is likely to gain real traction, in my humble opinion. Before you shoot me, just think how many ecologists and other general biologists are likely to be regular readers of (e.g.) Bulletin of Zoological nomenclature or taxon, compared with how many require access to compilations such as ITIS, Cat. of Life, and expert curated databases such as the Catalogue of Fishes, Biosystematic Database of World Diptera, and so on.

Systems like ITIS, sp2k / Catalogue of Life, Taxonomicon, PaleoDB, Wikispecies etc. as well as the numerous expert-curated global species databases which contribute to Cat. of Life are all potential parts of the solution, but what is required is to knit them all together into a coherent whole, across all domains i.e. botany/zoology/prokaryotes/viruses, extant and fossil... Some of this appears to be envisaged (but not funded!) as an element of GNUB, e.g. as recently described by Patterson et al., https://darchive.mblwhoilibrary.org/bitstream/handle/1912/4056/TREE_Names_preprint.pdf , but as I understand it the scope of GNUB is to treat "all" names usages which is a much bigger task.

So I would say, finding a way to bundle the taxonomy with the nomenclature is much more likely to find a permanent ongoing resource base and hosted home than just doing the nomenclature alone, and the latter for a single domain. Of course the taxonomic component will be permanently evolving ("opinions") while in general, the nomenclatural element will be "facts", but it is mainly the most up-to-date and coherent collection of the former that is what is really required.

So perhaps the question should be, is the solution to be found in extending / merging ITIS, Catalogue of Life and similar activities to produce a single comprehensive resource to hold both the taxonomic and nomenclatural information, or if not, why not...

(Let even more flogging commence)

Regards - Tony 
> -----Original Message-----
> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [mailto:taxacom-
> bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Chris Freeland
> Sent: Monday, 15 November 2010 10:08 AM
> To: Stephen Thorpe; Adam Cotton
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] A simple solution?
> I've been reading through these various threads on electronic
> publications, and with some trepidation will throw out a few points from
> my experience as the technical director for the Biodiversity Heritage
> Library.
> I agree with Stephen that the scope of work to build a system like Adam
> describes is quite large, but I also think that we can't let that stop us
> as a community.  Technology is making this problem easier to solve every
> day from a 'bits & bolts' standpoint.  The social & political issues about
> registration of e-publications are not so simple, and since I am no expert
> in the Codes I leave it at that and will instead comment on the tech side
> of things.
> Within the Biodiversity Heritage Library we've been working to establish
> redundant nodes for the digitized volumes (currently 80,000+) made
> available through scanning operations.  RIght now that content is all
> sitting on servers in San Francisco run by the Internet Archive - a risky
> single point of failure.  To address this risk we've tested and built a
> hardware & software solution I like to describe as "Dropbox on steroids"
> that identifies & syncs content across shared repositories around the
> world.  We currently have a cluster in Woods Hole (at Marine Biological
> Laboratory, a BHL partner) that syncs content from Internet Archive and
> are in the process of establishing a node at NHM London for the BHL-
> Europe.  We have begun working with the Atlas of Living Australia & Museum
> Victoria to establish a node in Australia, the Bibliotecha Alexandrina to
> establish a node in Egypt, SciELO for the same in Brasil, and right this
> very minute I'm in Beijing working with the Institute of Botany-Chinese
> Academy of Sciences for a node in China.  For more information on these
> activities, check out the presentation that developers Phil Cryer (MOBOT)
> & Anthony Goddard (MBL) gave at TDWG on this topic:
> http://slidesha.re/dngMhG and an earlier version presented in London:
> http://slidesha.re/bO8WNE
> So to try to wrap this up: BHL, as a global collaboration of like-minded
> organizations, is working to devise technologies that do the
> infrastructure side of the simple solution that Adam outlines.  I can say
> from our experience it has not been easy and we are certainly far from
> done, but we've been successful in demonstrating that it *can* be done -
> we can maintain multiple international nodes that share & sync content.
> Woohoo!  We've had a LOT of interest in our solution from multiple domains
> because everyone who runs a digital archive worries about redundancy &
> resilience - our community is not alone here.  I would hope that the
> ongoing discussions on this list can keep working on the policy & social
> issues around electronic publications because those are the pieces that
> are unique to our community.
> Let the flogging begin,
> Chris Freeland
> Director, Center for Biodiversity Informatics, Missouri Botanical Garden
> Tech Director, Biodiversity Heritage Library

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