[Taxacom] Serious questions about taxonomy/ontology

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Wed Sep 8 19:22:05 CDT 2010

is it just me, or is this gibberish:

'At SemTech in June 2010,  several speakers including Professor Deb McGuiness 
drew a very clear line was drawn between what a taxonomist does and what an 
ontologist does.  Taxonomists build hierarchies, and ontologists determine 
classes or categories.   In other words, ontologies are neat and unambiguous, 
and taxonomies are a bit messy.'

A taxonomist (not to be confused with a systematist), according to my 
understanding, describes and classifies. In the above quote, they seem to have 
given names to each of these two tasks, and called taxonomy the task of 
classifying what ontologists have described! Nice bit of jargon switching! Just 
goes to show how far these people are from taxonomic reality ... We do need 
knowledge management of taxonomic outputs, but this isn't the way to do it IMO 


From: Bob Mesibov <mesibov at southcom.com.au>
To: TAXACOM <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
Sent: Thu, 9 September, 2010 10:14:00 AM
Subject: [Taxacom] Serious questions about taxonomy/ontology

There's a large academic and commercial enterprise which can loosely be called 
'knowledge management'. It has strong links to Web-based projects such as the 
one about which Joel Sachs has just posted a query. For an example, please read


My questions are:

- Do any of the principles or results of this enterprise have anything to do 
with what we do as biological taxonomists?
- If so, do they suggest any ways in which we can improve what we do?
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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