[Taxacom] BioNames

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Sun Jun 2 18:36:29 CDT 2013

>Well, let's be honest, that's not going to happen for many taxa is it? Also, much of this doesn't actually need taxonomic input. We have a publication, it contains a name, it's the first time that name has appeared in the published literature. That's pretty much it. This is not rocket science<
Actually, I think rocket science is probably a lot easier! All you have to do is point the right end at the target and fire!
The first time that a name appears in the published literature may or may not be relevant to anything, and may or may not confer availability. It may also be extremely difficult to determine the "first time". For example, many very old books had their plates published in batches in advance of the text, and an illustration is suffucient to confer availability. It gets very complicated very fast. I disagree though, with Bob, that it requires "taxonomic" input to sort out. No, it requires experts on (zoological) nomenclature ...

From: Roderic Page <r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk>
To: Bob Mesibov <mesibov at southcom.com.au> 
Cc: TAXACOM <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> 
Sent: Monday, 3 June 2013 12:05 AM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] BioNames

Hi Bob,

On 2 Jun 2013, at 10:45, Bob Mesibov wrote:

> Hi, Rod.
> Many thanks for your explanation. I understand the reason for building BioNames, and like you I think it would be cool to link names with original publications and other data.
> What I'm finding hard to understand is why you're attempting to do this globally for all [animal] names, when you already know that aggregated name sources and author spellings, for example, can be incomplete or messy or just plain wrong. The resulting spaghetti of links is going to need a lot of fixing.

Why am I doing this globally? Apart from sheer hubris, there are economies of scale. I originally started this as a way to find articles in BHL (i.e., http://biostor.org/). It's more efficient to start with large bibliographies, ideally for complete for each journal , and blast through them in one go. ION turned out to be a good source of bibliographic data (along with many other places). Another motivation is that errors often only become clear when you combine data. I've found lots of bibliographic errors in otherwise high quality databases, things like the wrong year which in isolation are easy to miss but in a larger context stick out like a sore thumb.

One you have literature you want a way to navigate through it, and taxonomic names and classifications are an obvious way to do that. Hence, BioNames. 

> I admire your willingness to deal with the few problems I and other Taxacomers have already identified, but is that a useful strategy <cliche>moving forward</cliche>? How much time are you prepared to spend sorting out all the omissions and errors that BioName users might come across? Are you hoping that 'the crowd' will find any problems, and dutifully and diligently report them to you, which is the absurd expectation of some aggregators?

Obviously this doesn't scale, but if people find problems I will endeavour to fix them.

Regarding the bigger question, I think the expectation of the "crowd" fixing things is indeed naive, unless you provide a compelling motivation. To give an example, Mendeley http://www.mendeley.com/has essentially crowd sourced the largest bibliographic data that I'm aware of (bought by Elsevier for $US 100M) by providing a really useful tool to enable individuals to manage their collection of PDFs. So, the question is are there equivalent problems in our  field where solving a pressing individual need can be engineered to tackle a bigger problem. In other words, Mendeley didn't say "we want to build a big database, come help us make it", they said "we feel your pain managing PDFs, we can fix that for you". 

I've some ideas on how we could do this in our field, but they need some more thought.

> Again, I'm not saying that the linking is a silly idea, it's a good idea. But shouldn't it be done from the start by taxonomic specialists, the way Antbase has been built, to minimise mistakes?

Well, let's be honest, that's not going to happen for many taxa is it? Also, much of this doesn't actually need taxonomic input. We have a publication, it contains a name, it's the first time that name has appeared in the published literature. That's pretty much it. This is not rocket science.

Now, how those names apply to each other and the real world is a whole separate question. But that's not the question BioNames is trying to tackle.

> 'Bottom-up' is slow and leaves taxon gaps because there aren't the specialists, or because those specialists aren't building online resources. 'Top-down' is fast but leaves data gaps and disappointingly high levels of error. The (incomplete) list of projects in Ricardo's post suggests to me that speed has been overvalued in recent years.

The genius of "and" means we do both.



> -- 
> Dr Robert Mesibov
> Honorary Research Associate
> Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and
> School of Agricultural Science, University of Tasmania
> Home contact:
> PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
> (03) 64371195; 61 3 64371195

Roderic Page
Professor of Taxonomy
Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences
Graham Kerr Building
University of Glasgow
Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK

Email: r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk
Tel: +44 141 330 4778
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Blog: http://iphylo.blogspot.com/
Home page: http://taxonomy.zoology.gla.ac.uk/rod/rod.html
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roderic_D._M._Page
Citations: http://scholar.google.co.uk/citations?hl=en&user=4Z5WABAAAAAJ
ORCID id: http://orcid.org/0000-0002-7101-9767

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