[Taxacom] BHL & GBIF data vetted

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Mon Jan 17 15:30:43 CST 2011

Hi Wolfgang,

A lot of what you have said makes good sense, but I wish to discuss some points 
- one at a time for clarity. So the first point concerns this bit of what you 
have said:

'In contrast to the wiki system, where publications are more or less in a 
permanent manuscript stage, such PDFs would be citable, *finished*, and 
time-stamped documents with clear authorship'

Two comments:

(1) the very nature of the science (taxonomy, faunistics, etc.) is 'more or less 
in a permanent manuscript stage', so I actually consider it a *strength* of the 
wiki system that it reflects that fact. There is nothing worse than when 
something gets published in the normal way, but is already out of date before it 
even leaves the presses, and it is very difficult to then update it, unless it 
is an update of a "major" issue (which is a subjective call on what counts as 
"major"). *Please note* that I am not talking here of primary taxonomy, for that 
*does* need to be "set in stone" as a historical document. I am talking instead 
of secondary compilation/synthesis of primary taxonomic data. I *really* do 
think that in this day and age we *must* stop churning out hard copy catalogues. 
Also, another strength of the wiki system in this context is that you can 
post the important data without having to "cross every t and dot every i" to 
please some "anal editor" ... you can upload images that "do the trick" without 
necessarily being "publication quality" or likely to win any photography 
competitions. So, the somewhat "raw" aspect of wiki articles is, IMHO, actually 
a good thing, if you are interested in the actual information value, rather than 
just career advancement ...

(2) it is very odd that people cannot seem to grasp the fact that wiki articles 
are citable, time-stamped, and have clear authorship! The trick is to use the 
URLs from the page history, rather than the URL to the page itself. Each edit in 
the history has an author, a time-stamp, and a stable URL *to that version* (not 
to the current version of the page)

more later,


From: Wolfgang Lorenz <faunaplan at googlemail.com>
To: "taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu" <Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
Cc: Coleoptera-ZSM at zsm.mwn.de
Sent: Tue, 18 January, 2011 12:18:58 AM
Subject: [Taxacom] BHL & GBIF data vetted

Dear All,

putting together the legacy data from the literature for a taxon can still
be an immense challenge. Even getting the complete picture of the known
distribution range of a single species - past and extant -  is one of the
most time-consuming tasks I can think of. A task that has been performed
reliably for only a tiny fraction of our known species, - despite the fact
that such data are the basic units of biogeography and are indispensable for
biodiversity conservation.
In light of such a background, we cannot value high enough all the efforts
that have been made and are being made through initiatives like BHL and
However, only taxon experts can easily recognize the errors in the output of
these largely automated data portals. Not so the average user  - most
biologists, students, conservationists, journalists, politicians .... The
risk of being misinformed with data from GBIF or BHL is very high for
someone who is not a taxon expert who is able to vet the data.
So I'd like to ask: What can the friendly expert do to share his vetting
results with a wider user community?

Maybe we do not need more than what we already have with the existing tools
in BHL (e.g., the name search tool in BHL!) and GBIF (e.g., its excellent
download-options). In addition to the important  wiki ideas (with more great
things here: http://www.species-id.net), don't we also have the option to
create open-access PDFs for our vetting results?
Maybe it's possible to have a central place for such "catalogue-style" PDFs
with a manuscript-stage quarantine, maybe closely allied with ZooBank? (not
directly as a topic within ZooBank, but don't we need to know the usage
history of names for a number of nomenclatural reasons, too?)

Let me just illustrate this with the following example (test version only,
still incomplete and, of course, access to a bibliography for understanding
the micro-citations is needed but it is still a work in progress):


In contrast to the wiki system, where publications are more or less in a
permanent manuscript stage, such PDFs would be citable, *finished*, and
time-stamped documents with clear authorship.
As you can see in the example: it has its own accepted name for the taxon
(=current chresonymy with synonymy), and the full "legacy chresonymy", i.e.,
the accepted names used in previous publications. It also has embedded
hyperlinks to BHL (still incomplete), - an expert-created/-filtered
counterpart to what you get with the BHL name search (which cannot
distinguish homonyms, for example). The map display can be directly compared
with what you get as overview map through the GBIF data portal (see link
below the map), etc....

Maybe an optimistic dream: but in the early stages of this "official decade
of biodiversity", it shouldn't be impossible to organize more substantial
funding for fundamental things...

Best regards,


Wolfgang Lorenz, Tutzing, Germany

Taxacom Mailing List
Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu

The Taxacom archive going back to 1992 may be searched with either of these 

(1) http://taxacom.markmail.org

Or (2) a Google search specified as:  site:mailman.nhm.ku.edu/pipermail/taxacom  
your search terms here


More information about the Taxacom mailing list