[Taxacom] human involvement (was Re: BioNames)

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Mon Jun 3 17:13:10 CDT 2013

On 6/3/13 1:57 PM, Stephen Thorpe wrote:
> The answer is simple: less automated and more human involvement in the aggregation process, combined with an efficient and transparent system for feedback regarding errors, by anyone who notices them (preferably with the history all logged and publicly archived) ...
Many of us have been saying this for many years now.

This approach, however, faces an extreme challenge from either side of 
the equation: (1) you can't actually design a proposal where ALL of the 
necessary labor would be funded, because that would require hiring 
thousands of people (some of you will recall the "All-Species" 
initiative, which promised to do just that), and (2) if the labor is all 
unpaid (an approach which, in essence, has been/is being tried), then 
any such proposal won't offer much incentive (or guidance) to the 
volunteers - and good luck finding several thousand skilled volunteers 
who all have access to all of the necessary original literature.

Realistically, one either needs to improve the incentive for 
participation in the system (such as making participation effectively 
mandatory, as happens with GenBank), or find a way to fund a large but 
manageable number of experts who can then coordinate and oversee 
volunteers within a discipline (or do much of the work themselves, 
full-time). On my more cynical days, it occurs to me that no one is 
interested in the latter approach because, if the taxasphere was divvied 
up into equal parcels (e.g., having 200 experts responsible for, say, no 
fewer than 10,000 taxa apiece), at least 75% of the positions would go 
to invertebrate taxonomists.


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)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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