[Taxacom] Data query, ETC.

John Grehan calabar.john at gmail.com
Tue Jun 25 05:54:48 CDT 2013


I'm a little intrigued by the reference to the Mythbusters view of science
and also "citizen science" in he form of images. It seems to me that
writing something down does not of itself make science since anyone can
write anything down about anything. Is witchcraft science simply because it
is written? Is the Bible or the Koran science because it is written down?

"Citizen Science" as a great catchphrase, but is the making of images
science, and what kind of science? If one has an image of a flying saucer
is that science? I ask this because I have a view of science as something
that involves verifiability. For years I have told students and the public
(perhaps erroneously?) that a core principal of science is some form of
verifiability since this seems to be a common thread for all scientific
investigation even if it requires several steps to get back to some
particular observation or experiment, and that for biodiversity that
verification rests with specimens housed in museums. Without being able to
go to those specimens (in collections or in the field) there really is no
science as I would understand the term, just unverifiable claims. It is
interesting that the basic Darwin Core data is defined as spatial and
temporal information, but form information. Space and time might be 2/3 of
evolution, but the other third is nevertheless the necessary compliment for
the whole. I have seen plenty of images of species in the group of my
interest, but they are useless for all scientific intents and purposes, for
all that they may be fantastic and intriguing. I have seen, for example,
plenty of images of the Australian Abantiades latipennis, but whether these
images are really of this or another species is impossible to tell. The
images and the spatial and temporal information in these cases cannot
provide information that can be reliably used in a scientific assessment as
far as I can see. I will be interested to see the counter argument on these
concerns.

John Grehan




On Sun, Jun 23, 2013 at 8:21 PM, Walker, Ken <kwalker at museum.vic.gov.au>wrote:

> "I for one fail to see the point of 'mega-projects' using copied,
> re-copied and 'machine-read' data."
>
> It's not all like that!
>
> The distance between two points is not often a straight line - we all seem
> to like progress but few are prepared to take progress in incremental steps
> -- such as data aggregators.
>
> I cannot speak for or about GBIF or EOL and others but I can speak about
> the relatively new Australian Museums and Herbaria data aggregator ALA
> (Atlas of Living Australia).
>
> HUGE amounts of money was spent on developing ALA - but it is so much more
> than a simple data aggregator.
>
> Software paradigms move and shift as time goes on.  For example, the data
> querying paradigm used to be "ye old" SQL servers which works as a vertical
> hierarchical sequence of actions - this action is completed before the next
> action is begun.  Then along came "Non-SQL" servers that work as a
> horizontal non-hierarchical set of actions where multiple actions can all
> be fired off simultaneously.  Non-SQL servers were a breath of free-air for
> socially interactive websites where a number of files need to be updated
> instantaneously whenever something new is added.  ALA uses a Non-SQL
> structure.
>
> ALA decided to spend its funding in many ways (always playing within its
> strict set of funding rules).  It built a powerful web portal full of
> "Biodiversity Tools" - tools for integration the data (for the first time
> seamless integration of different datasets eg. Plants and Animals) , tools
> to model data, tools to predict species in time and space, tools to display
> hundreds of GIS overlays on a taxon distribution map etc.  ALA also put
> buckets of high quality infrastructure back into the Museums and Herbaria
> (equipment that Museum and Herbaria could not afford alone) knowing the
> output of this infrastructure would in-part feed back into ALA.
>
> ALA has also heavily funded engagement with Citizen Science.  In the
> immortal words of the "Mythbusters" -- "The only difference between
> screwing around and doing science is writing it down."
>
> There are now over 40 billion images on Flickr, Facebook and YouTube.
>  There are billions of fantastic natural images recording new species and
> new distributions for known species but much of this information is lost to
> science because many of these images lack the basic Darwin Core data:
>  spatial and temporal information.  ALA funded the development of new
> Australian Citizen Science website that mandates users add spatial and
> temporal data to their images.  All of this new Citizen Science data
> (images and metadata) is then uploaded to ALA which converts them to new
> dots on distribution maps, adds new temporal markers and makes available
> sets of new species images.  And guess what, this Citizen Science data then
> becomes available to be used by the wealth of ALA tools created to use
> these dots.
>
> Importantly, under the funding rules established for ALA, not one cent
> could have been used for basic taxonomic research and disappointingly, not
> one cent could have been spent on databasing specimen records in Museum or
> Herbaria collections.
>
> I guess on that basis, some would have rejected this funding --- but now,
> Australia made a huge incremental step in managing it Biodiversity
> resources - it has an effective integrated data aggregator, full of
> biodiversity software tools and it has seeded projects back in Museums and
> Herbaria which directly assist them "getting their data out" and it has
> engaged with the growing tidal wave of Citizen Science.
>
> OK -- ALA has indeed used "copied, re-copied and 'machine-read' data" to
> establish its taxonomic framework but it has done so much more and provided
> so much more .... it's an incremental step between points A and B.
>
> ken
>
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [mailto:
> taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Chris Thompson
> Sent: Monday, 24 June 2013 3:25 AM
> To: Frank.Krell at dmns.org; dpwijesinghe at yahoo.com;
> taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Data query, ETC.
>
> Frank,
>
> AND what is more frustrating is the HUGE amount of money that has been
> expended on these mega-projects to simply repeat, re-harvest, etc., the
> same old basic taxonomic information, just generating new software.
>
> And virtually nothing is left over for fundamental, basic research into
> the discovery and documentation of our ever disappearing biodiversity.
>
> So, in a few years you dynastine beetle will be gone, but we will continue
> to waste money on re-cycling the same old information about them in newer
> forms, formats, etc.
>
> And yes, this is not restricted to Systematics. But this is simply the
> formula for why Apple, Microsoft, et alia, are trillion / billion dollar
> corporations. Generate new formats / access protocols / etc., to the same
> data, but generate lots of $$$. And yes, since from the original UNIVAC to
> today's iPod, etc., bringing computer power the general public is
> WONDERFUL, but how much NEW information is really available to the public.
> [Yes, thanks to Snowden, lots!! Smile!]
>
> Cheers,
>
> Chris
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Frank.Krell at dmns.org
> Sent: Sunday, June 23, 2013 10:43 AM
> To: dpwijesinghe at yahoo.com ; taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Data query
>
>
> "I for one fail to see the point of 'mega-projects' using copied, re-copied
> and 'machine-read' data."
>
> particularly since they still make data retrieval pretty frustrating. I
> just
> googled the rhinoceros beetle Temnorhynchus sjoestedti. Apart from some of
> my own papers, the search revealed 15 pages repeating zero information.
> Well, I know now that it belongs to Protostomia and Insecta, and that it is
> a dynastine. This kind of outcome is the same for most species in the
> world,
> and has remained largely unchanged for years, apart from the fact that the
> number of pages revealing this information has increased. Reality can be
> frustrating.
>
> Frank
>
> Dr. Frank-T. Krell
> Curator of Entomology
> Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
> Chair, ICZN ZooBank Committee
> Department of Zoology
> Denver Museum of Nature & Science
> 2001 Colorado Boulevard
> Denver, CO 80205-5798 USA
> Frank.Krell at dmns.org
> Phone: (+1) (303) 370-8244
> Fax: (+1) (303) 331-6492
> http://www.dmns.org/science/museum-scientists/frank-krell
> lab page: http://www.dmns.org/krell-lab
> The Denver Museum of Nature & Science aspires to create a community of
> critical thinkers who understand the lessons of the past and act as
> responsible stewards of the future.
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