[Taxacom] validation of taxon names

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Sun Feb 19 19:51:12 CST 2012

yeah, but I can't help thinking that it is *only under current conditions* that people like Armand suffer the said nightmare, whereas things *could be so much better*, with better data structuring of existing and future databases
practical experience, both by me personally, and by others that I know, some of whom are professional taxonomists, at asking other taxonomists to clear up uncertainties relating to names, etc., suggests that it can quite often just make the problem worse!
the problem is with the way most current databases present their data, not with the general principle
I am working constantly to improve the data structure on Wikispecies, so as to allow the user to see where the data is coming from and how it links together (and how it links with other databases), and where the problems are ...
*data sources must start to explicitly state how their data relates to that in other data sources*, so that questions like: 
>'how do I work out whether Aus bus in this data source is the same as the Aus bus [or Cus bus, or Cus dus] in this other one'? 
can be answered by the user from the database (or not at all) ...

From: Bob Mesibov <mesibov at southcom.com.au>
To: Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz> 
Cc: TAXACOM <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> 
Sent: Monday, 20 February 2012 2:34 PM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] validation of taxon names


Can't fault what you're saying. Go back, though, to Rod Page's post:

"The point is not whether taxonomists consider them to be names, but how do we find out what these things mean when we encounter them in scientific papers, phylogenies, as entries in databases, as labels on specimens, etc.?"

Rod's 'we' *might* include taxonomists, but a much bigger 'we' are the intended/hoped-for, non-specialist users of GBIF, EoL and a host of less well-funded and probably shorter-lived projects. This the audience for whom we are 'unlocking biodiversity science' and making its results universally accessible.

So how do those 'we' find out what the names mean, a la Rod's question? They either ask specialists or they suffer the nightmare that Armand said he faced. A network of linked data does not supply the *interpreted* data that non-specialists want.

I'm sorry if I may have confused the issue by bringing up the GAAOTR (although Ken Walker suggested it's *needed* by non-specialists!), since Rod would probably see that as just one of the ways of linking disparate data sources, and not necessarily the best. And I do know that specialists can sometimes do a sloppy job of compilation.

But the answer to 'how do I work out whether Aus bus in this data source is the same as the Aus bus [or Cus bus, or Cus dus] in this other one'? begins with asking a specialist, whether that's a professional taxonomist with lots of publications on these and related taxa, or an exceptionally well-informed compiler like Stephen Thorpe. I wouldn't trust a non-human source to tell me, and an un-specialised GBIF customer (for example) *certainly* shouldn't.
Dr Robert Mesibov
Honorary Research Associate
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery
Home contact: PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
Ph: (03) 64371195; 61 3 64371195
Webpage: http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/?articleID=570

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