[Taxacom] global species lists and taxonomy ( was Re: Draft Checklist ...)

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Thu Aug 29 20:30:46 CDT 2013

Just as an amusing (or not!) aside, I wonder how automatic name harvesters would handle this: http://www.organismnames.com/details.htm?lsid=5083027

From: "Tony.Rees at csiro.au" <Tony.Rees at csiro.au>
To: dyanega at ucr.edu; taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu 
Sent: Thursday, 29 August 2013 4:50 PM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] global species lists and taxonomy ( was Re: Draft Checklist ...)

Dear Doug, all,

I for one would be (fairly) happy to defer to a single "management classification" governed by an editor for each section even if this is not strictly consensus: compare e.g. the Sybil Parker, ed., 2-vol. printed work "Synopsis and Classification of Living Organisms" (1982) or Michael Benton, ed. "The Fossil Record" (1992) for example treatments. One can then use such a system as the basis for a standardized treatment between different systems even if they then choose to deviate from it in parts for local use. If Parker's work were produced today I am sure it would be on the internet and it would not be a burden for others to say "classification follows [new]Parker, 20xx except where noted".

I am not sure of the original funding model for either of the two print compilations above but I imagine the publisher (or their sponsor/s) paid the respective editors and each section author a fee to produce it (as a one-off effort) in return for profits on sales. An non-print operation would need a different funding model.

FYI the two works cited above go down to level of family; getting in the genera and species is a different level of effort but at least partly done in such operations as Catalogue of Life and elsewhere as we know. Alternatively we could lean gently on "major players" with an interest in this area to do this work themselves since it is clearly in [some of ] their own interests anyway (hint hint...) - e.g. GBIF already have a "GBIF Nub" classification which attempts to operate in this space even if at present it has some issues as have been pointed out elsewhere; Dennis Gordon's 2009 discussion paper for Cat. of Life (available at http://www.catalogueoflife.org/col/info/hierarchy) is also a relevant pointer to a possible way forward.

This to me would seem a more positive direction than that suggested by your last 2 paragraphs wherein everybody has to agree before a useable system can be produced.

Regards - Tony

Dr Tony Rees 
Manager | Divisional Data Centre
Marine and Atmospheric Research
E Tony Rees at csiro.au T +61 3 6232 5318
CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, GPO Box 1538, Hobart, TAS 7001, Australia
Manager, OBIS Australia regional Node, http://www.obis.au/
LinkedIn profile: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/tony-rees/18/770/36

> -----Original Message-----
> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [mailto:taxacom-
> bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Doug Yanega
> Sent: Thursday, 29 August 2013 4:27 AM
> To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Subject: [Taxacom] global species lists and taxonomy ( was Re: Draft
> Checklist ...)
> I'll jump in here, and re-title the thread, since no one seems to be
> referring to the original topic any more.
> On 8/28/13 12:52 AM, Donat Agosti wrote:
> > And there is definitely no cure in sight, if we continue to publish
> dumb, copyrighted taxonomic publications in print or as pdf.
> >
> > The creed should be: open access, marked-up publications that can
> automatically be harvested for taxonomic names (and more), at least new
> taxa being registered previous to the publications at the various
> domain specific registries (Zoobank, IPNI; Mycobank/Index Fungorum,
> etc.). The technology and business model is here (see the Pensoft
> publications Zookeys, Phytokeys, etc.).
> On 8/28/13 1:18 AM, Robert Guralnick wrote:
> > Its very
> > thorny, however, as it requires not just dealing with names entering
> the
> > system but the names, changes to names, and changes to name
> > circumscriptions eg. taxon concepts separate from the name changes.
> >
> The domain-specific registries are not designed to track name changes
> or
> circumscriptions, which are subjective (with few exceptions). The role
> of subjectivity in the taxonomic enterprise is the fundamental
> stumbling
> block - and always has been - in terms of taxonomists communicating to
> non-taxonomists, and even if we had a complete registry of every name
> ever published, we would have no *objective* (i.e. "definitive") way of
> telling anyone how many *taxa* those names represent, OR what ranks
> they
> should be assigned to. To accomplish this we would need to create a new
> administrative entity whose task is to (1) arbitrate all cases of
> taxonomic "dispute" such that a single definitive taxonomy is achieved
> [look to the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (APG) for a possible model],
> and
> (2) make that single taxonomy available to non-taxonomists via a
> dynamic
> "official" interface [look to Wikispecies for a possible model, but
> with
> links that allow for instant propagation of classification changes to
> all online sources]. I'm fairly certain, however, that not only would
> there be insufficient financial support (to engage the services of
> enough taxonomists for this to work), but that the concept itself - a
> select group of taxonomists coming to a consensus about an *entire*
> classification - is about as realistic as expecting to find a pot of
> gold at the end of a rainbow. Even the APG is still highly
> controversial
> after 15 years, and that covers just one part of the taxasphere, and
> only a subset of the rankings therein.
> Taxonomists are people, and people have ambitions and egos and careers,
> and they are collectively, intrinsically, in *conflict*; fighting for
> jobs, fighting for funding, fighting for *recognition*. Expecting
> genuine cooperation and collaboration, or even a unified vision, seems
> extremely naive. I try to imagine how to get all the world's
> taxonomists
> to act in unison for the common good, and even the most likely
> scenarios
> seem improbable: (1: Democracy) if, rather than having a "select group"
> deciding on the official taxonomy, every single taxonomist, regardless
> of discipline, was allowed a single vote (thus, participation is out of
> self-interest, rather than requiring funding). This is probably
> technically feasible, but people would have to *unanimously* agree to
> participate AND agree to abide by the results of the voting. Given that
> some taxonomists refuse to accept even the premise of peer review, I
> cannot see how unanimous participation could ever be achieved, because
> these folks would be unwilling to have their work subjected to a vote.
> (2: Fear) if the non-taxonomists who control the funding for taxonomy
> become sufficiently annoyed with being told things like "There is no
> consensus as to which family that endangered species belongs to, or if
> it's even a species" then they could potentially consign us to oblivion
> - and the fear of us all collectively being unemployed if we can't get
> our act together might sufficiently motivate people (I'm reminded of
> Benjamin Franklin's famous quote: " We must, indeed, all hang together
> or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.") The problem with
> this, even if it should reach that unpleasant level, is that there will
> always be SOME taxonomists whose funding is secure, and they will not
> perceive a threat, feel no sense of urgency, nor see a reason to
> sacrifice their independence in order to help their less fortunate
> colleagues.
> In either scenario, there would inevitably be some taxonomists who
> would
> absolutely refuse to cooperate, because the status quo *suits their
> purposes*. The ultimate question, then, is whether - in order to
> achieve
> a single unified classification of life - people would have the resolve
> to develop and implement such a system over the objections of all those
> who oppose it. If not, then any vision of a unified classification is
> dead in the water, and discussion is moot. If the best we can do is to
> simply list all the disputes, and tell non-taxonomists that it's up to
> them to choose which classification they want to follow, then we have
> no
> one but ourselves to blame for all the resulting antagonism, disdain,
> and lack of support for taxonomy. Yes, the existence of things like the
> APG do give me some hope, but it also highlights just how far we have
> yet to go.
> Sincerely,
> --
> Doug Yanega      Dept. of Entomology      Entomology Research Museum
> Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314    skype: dyanega
> phone: (951) 827-4315 (disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
>              http://cache.ucr.edu/~heraty/yanega.html
>    "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
>          is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82
> _______________________________________________

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