[Taxacom] saturday morning fun

Bob Mesibov mesibov at southcom.com.au
Sun Nov 28 20:23:20 CST 2010

Geoff Read wrote:

"It is not the job of GBIF to second guess every entry in every museum database on earth, or to resolve inadequate original data. The providers need to do that."

Oh dear. Well, that's the problem in a nutshell, isn't it? Biodiversity data aggregators aren't responsible for biodiversity data quality. GBIF makes this explicit:

"Data validity — Users acknowledge that the validity of GBIF-mediated data cannot be assured. GBIF disclaims responsibility for the accuracy and reliability of the data as well as for the suitability of its application for any particular purpose."

It would be an interesting exercise to pull together in one place all the stated goals of all the acronyms. Not the childish 'Wouldn't it be great to have all the world's biodiversity information at your fingertips?' fantasies, but the project's promises about what they would deliver and for what purposes. Here's GBIF's:

"The mission of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) is to facilitate free and open access to biodiversity data worldwide via the Internet to underpin sustainable development. Priorities, with an emphasis on promoting participation and working through partners, include mobilising biodiversity data, developing protocols and standards to ensure scientific integrity and interoperability, building an informatics architecture to allow the interlinking of diverse data types from disparate sources, promoting capacity building and catalysing development of analytical tools for improved decision-making."

Which might be decoded as: "If you need hard, reliable data, go elsewhere. We're not retailers, we're wholesalers, or maybe more like promoters and developers of integrated systems for linking wholesalers."

Unfortunately, so far as I can see, none of the acronyms offer this sort of disclaimer:

"Data use — Users are advised that for any information regarding particular taxa, the best sources are taxonomic specialists, both for interpreting what we offer and for supplying reliable data which is not in our databases."

And the chances of ever seeing this?
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
Ph: (03) 64371195; 61 3 64371195
Webpage: http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/?articleID=570

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