[Taxacom] What can Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) do for you?

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Fri Oct 18 22:07:04 CDT 2013

I think we can sum up a lot of what goes on with the slogan "do it first, ask questions later"!

From: Bob Mesibov <mesibov at southcom.com.au>
To: TAXACOM <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> 
Sent: Saturday, 19 October 2013 3:32 PM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] What can Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) do for you?

I don't blame Rod for asking the wrong question in starting this thread, because he's genuinely interested in making GBIF more useful.

But the responses better fit the question 'For what you want to do, is a collection of taxonomically and geographically biased records, full of errors and misidentifications, any use at all?', and the answers have been 'Not much'.

This may be because TAXACOM members are mainly taxonomists or taxonomy-focused. Over on his iPhylo blog, Rod is getting feedback from 'bioinformaticians', who are thinking about technical fixes for existing content. He may also be getting off-Web responses by email (like mine).

But the starting premise is that aggregating museum and related occurrence records is a Good Thing and can only get better with more records. Is that premise correct? Or is it like EOL's starting premise, that it would be cool to have one webpage for every species? Cool for whom? For what purposes?

And in both the GBIF and EOL cases: for the purposes that people now use biodiversity data, are these huge projects the best way to assist people in reaching their varied goals?

If you're interested in this question, a nice starting point for thought is this 2004 paper:

Meier, R and Dikow, T (2004) Significance of specimen databases from taxonomic revisions for estimating and mapping the global species diversity of invertebrates and repatriating reliable specimen data. Conservation Biology 18(2): 478-488.

It's 9 years old but our good friends at Wiley still have it locked up behind a paywall. If you can't get a copy any other way, email me for the 325kb PDF. (In 2013 you can get Wiley to publish your paper in Conservation Biology with open access for a small fee: USD$3000.)
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

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