[Taxacom] BHL & GBIF data vetted

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Mon Jan 17 16:57:40 CST 2011

following on with more comments ...

one crucial aspect to any good system for presenting biodiversity informatics 
data is that it allows *anyone* who notices an error to easily flag it or 
preferably fix it. It is clear how the wiki system facilitates this, but not 
clear to me how your "finished PDFs" handle it???

to make the more general point once again: the problem for biodiversity 
informatics in the world today is that there are too many independent 
initiatives, all wanting to "do it their way", and aften trading on their own 
supposed "authority". We *must* develop better ways to make info verifiable to 
the end user if they need to, and recognise that many people have a part to play 
in making available good biodiversity data, so there is no point claiming 
authority and excluding others from being able to contribute, for the inevitable 
result will be a global biodiversity informatics data quality crisis ... if 
indeed we don't have that already ...


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

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