[Taxacom] Global biodiversity databases

Paul van Rijckevorsel dipteryx at freeler.nl
Thu Aug 9 03:34:34 CDT 2012

From: "Dave Roberts" <workpackage6 at gmail.com>
Sent: Thursday, August 09, 2012 10:06 AM

> Dear Paul,
> do you think it realistic that we can raise the quality of the data
> significantly across the board?  Quality is about fitness-for-purpose [1].

These are a lot of questions rolled into one. Obviously the
quality of data can be improved, and many of those on this
list are engaged in this. There is more than one model for
this too: the lone, dedicated worker can do great things
as can the collaborative effort (a la TROPICOS).

But "across the board"? I might suggest that the more
things are connected, the more the board is weighted
down with junk, the more likely the whole is to sink?
Once junk is present, all too often there will be pressure
to bring the quality stuff down, so as to be consistent
with the junk.

And there is more than one definition of quality. Even
the now popular "Quality is about fitness-for-purpose"
or "Quality is about fitness-for-use" will vary with
whatever purpose or use is being considered.


* * *
> I hope that by linking the many resources we will achieve the sort of
> strength that a rope gets from its many individual strands.  The key is
> not to rely upon any individual strand, but to twist them together in a
> clever way to give a robust result.
> I think Rich is spot on here but his simple sentence encompasses a
> seriously non-trivial effort.  Its a thread emerging in the White Paper on
> biodiversity informatics:
> http://is.gd/WhitePaperChapters
> Cheers, Dave
> [1] "Researchers typically build databases the quickest way they know how,
> without necessarily considering whether they will work with other
> databases."  Heidi Ledford, Nature 25 June 09, p1048.
> --
> On 9 Aug 2012, at 08:34, Paul van Rijckevorsel wrote:
>> From: "Richard Pyle" <deepreef at bishopmuseum.org>
>> Sent: Tuesday, August 07, 2012 6:57 PM
>>    [...] I think the key is building infrastructures that
>>> allow existing databases to become more tightly integrated.
>>   [...]
>>>> Question 4: Which existing initiative currently comes closest to what
>>>> you
>>>> would ideally like to see?
>>> Almost all of them. What we need to do now is make them all work
>>> together
>>> seamlessly.
>> ***
>> I would say that the key issue is data (/ information) quality.
>> There is a saying "a chain is only as strong as the weakest
>> link", and to the end user this may well apply to data linking.
>> Digging up every error ever made and linking to it, thus
>> bringing it back into circulation, will confuse the end user
>> no end.
>> Data quality and quality of linking are linked issues.
>> Paul
> --
> Dr D.McL. Roberts,        Tel: +44 (0)20 7942 5086
> Dept. Zoology,             Fax: +44 (0)20 7942 5054
> The Natural History Museum,
> Cromwell Road,
> London        SW7 5BD
> Great Britain             Email: dmr at nomencurator dot org
> Web page:
> http://scratchpads.eu
> http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/projects/euk-extreme/
> --
> "You can't just ask customers what they want and then try and give it to
> them.  By the time you get it built, they'll want something new." [Steve
> Jobs, quoted in The Guardian, Technology Section, 25 June 09].
> --
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