[Taxacom] A simple solution?

Paul Kirk p.kirk at cabi.org
Mon Nov 15 04:28:58 CST 2010

and these "existing high-quality databases" are? URLs please, I'm
interested in them.
-----Original Message-----
From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
[mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of
dipteryx at freeler.nl
Sent: 15 November 2010 10:22
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] A simple solution?

Although this was completely off-topic, perhaps it does require comment
(but yes, it is becoming repetitive. So, list-members may wish to skip

Van: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu namens Tony.Rees at csiro.au
Verzonden: ma 15-11-2010 2:05

> 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.

As I pointed out a few days ago, the public "out there" wants a single
list from a Respected National Taxonomic Authority.
The "client" does not want nomenclatural Codes, nomenclatural acts,
nomenclatural databases, etc. Just the one list/database in its own
language, on the organisms on its own territory. And there are many such
lists in existence.

What the "client" also does not want is a classification, except as a
method for browsing. Why else could the CoL (followed by others) have
its own version / just a plain wrong rendition of the Cronquist
classification (this has been around for decades, so the aberration
cannot be caused by newness or surprise)?
Nobody cares. To the "client" a classification is just a quaint
* * * 

> 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.

I don't see it. The client does not care about an "index of 
life": he wants actual (accurate) information on the actual
organism(s) he is dealing with. The (religious?) pursuit of 
a Tree-of-Life does not concern him in any professional
capacity / for any practical purpose: a Tree-of_Life is good
for entertainment only, a headline and few paragraphs in the
Saturday/Sunday paper.
* * *

> 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., 
s_preprint.pdf , 
> but as I understand it the scope of GNUB is to treat "all" 
> names usages which is a much bigger task.

As far as I understand it GNUB is engaged in connecting up 
databases and database records. It appears to become 
more and more a world unto its own, which may indeed
become internally coherent at some point, but seemingly
only at the cost of getting entirely divorced from reality?

This is not particularly worrying me, as there is constant
progress in the bottom-up initiatives, that do offer clear
and reliable information. We are constantly (and pleasantly)
surprised by the launch of new initiatives. Also the existing 
agencies are developing and becoming more solid all the time. 
* * *

> 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...

As far as I can see, the most promising strategy might well be
to throw out "ITIS, Catalogue of Life and similar activities" 
(so as to be rid of the junk). If something more than the existing 
high-quality databases is wanted, then any new structure should
be based directly on these.

Not that this is likely to happen!

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