[Taxacom] validation of taxon names

Paul van Rijckevorsel dipteryx at freeler.nl
Sun Feb 19 09:36:53 CST 2012

From: "Roderic Page" <r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk>
Sent: Sunday, February 19, 2012 2:48 PM

> This thread seems to have spiralled off into the murky waters of taxonomic
> opinion, where no sane individual would want to go ;)
> Dragging it back a bit, my list of five services I think would be useful
> were:
> 1. Is this a name?
> 2. Is this the correct way to write it?
> 3. Is this name currently in use?
> 4. What other names are related to this name (e.g., synonyms, lexical
> variants)?
> 5. Where was this name published? Can I see that publication?
> I still think most of this is pretty straightforward to do. Number 3 could
> perhaps be best phrased as  "what name should I use?." As much as we might
> dislike the question (there will often be multiple possible names, and
> some argument about which to use), I suspect many uses don't care about
> these minor details, they want a name to use for their purposes. As Robert
> Scoble has argued in the context of buying a mobile phone, people want to
> make a choice that avoids making them look stupid
> http://scobleizer.com/2011/12/26/phone7/
> In the case of taxonomic names, I'm guessing people would like to use a
> name that most of their readers are likely to recognise, and that search
> engines will find. If I'm compiling a list of animals eaten by penguins I
> don't want the full taxonomic history, nor do I want ambiguity, just give
> me a name!
> There also seems to be an undercurrent of "this taxonomy stuff is really
> hard, we can't automate this stuff because taxonomists have special
> knowledge, etc.". There will always be hard cases that need expertise, but
> I suspect a lot of the information users need can be computed. For
> example, Huber and Klump have done some interesting work on using
> algorithms inspired by Google's PageRank to analyse taxonomic synonomies
> (see   http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cageo.2008.02.016 , free PDF here
> http://edoc.gfz-potsdam.de/gfz/get/13007/0/d8b09c133462792c99eb6a163a6c5601/13007.pdf )
> .
> So, I'd like to see less special pleading that taxonomy is hard, that
> taxonomic knowledge is special, and more focus on what users want (or
> need), and how we can create the tools they need.

I am supposing that this is a special 'biodiversity informatician's'

As to point 4), we have been over this. Synonyms are not necessarily
names, and in botany at least, 'lexical variants' definitely are not names
(I know there is an ongoing debate in zoology if they are names, but
this looks silly to me). So, point 4) is incompatible with point 1),
unless one were to adopt the 'biodiversity informatician's' definition
of "a name", in which case this question does not really belong on
this list.

As to the needs of users, where it concerns economically important
taxa (or even taxa interesting to the general public) there are handbooks,
standard lists, etc, that handle this, and these have existed for quite
a while. Only where it concerns biodiversity matters are things less clear.
It is as if the 'biodiversity informaticians', having promised that their
shiny new discipline was going to bring splendid results by applying
special, newly developed, tools (thus cutting corners, over the stodgy
traditional approach) then went about it in a topsy-turvy fashion and
are now complaining that taxonomy is all topsy-turvy?


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