[Taxacom] Chameleons, GBIF, and the Red List

Lyubomir Penev lyubo.penev at gmail.com
Wed Aug 20 01:41:51 CDT 2014

Another useful GBIF annotation could be: "This record has been published in
a scholarly article",  with the respective citation/link to that article.
Normally taxonomists are used to publish occurrence records which they or
their coauthors have either personally verified in collections or have
taken from other trusted sources (e.g., identified by an authority in the

We all know that records published in peer-reviewed articles, although not
free of possible errors of course, are of much higher reliability than
"raw" data from collections. This should be flagged. The technology to
track usages of specimen occurrence records in scholarly publications and
link the later to collections and aggregators is not faraway from now.

Another potentially HUGE source of good data for GBIF could be records
extracted from legacy literature through markup and data mining


On Wed, Aug 20, 2014 at 3:26 AM, Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>

> Call me cynical, but I think perhaps that GBIF is designed to meet a
> specific demand, by bureaucrats, who just want something "official looking"
> to cite for a broad range of biodiversity related issues. They are less
> concerned with data quality than they are at just doing their jobs without
> having to actively search for data.
> Stephen
> --------------------------------------------
> On Wed, 20/8/14, Bob Mesibov <mesibov at southcom.com.au> wrote:
>  Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Chameleons, GBIF, and the Red List
>  To: "TAXACOM" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
>  Cc: "Rod Page" <r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk>
>  Received: Wednesday, 20 August, 2014, 12:09 PM
>  The chameleons paper came out while I
>  was in the field here in Australia with two visiting
>  European zoologists. They were surprised by the numbers in
>  the paper, but not because they or their colleagues rely on
>  GBIF. They asked two rhetorical questions:
>  Who would use GBIF to obtain reliable records for a
>  particular taxon of interest? (The Europeans didn't.)
>  Why would anyone use GBIF for multi-taxon or area-focused
>  data?
>  Expanding, they said that any specialist wanting reliable
>  records would go first to specialist-compiled data. If they
>  didn't exist, the specialist would make a fresh start from
>  collections, the assumption being that collections data (the
>  stuff uploaded to GBIF) could well be wrong. The Europeans
>  gave me alarming examples, both for taxon ID and locality
>  information. (My 2013 audit of GBIF's Australian millipede
>  data wasn't half so alarming.)
>  This is the specialist viewpoint. There is presumably a
>  perfectly good answer to Rhetorical Question 2 from a
>  non-specialist viewpoint, but if it involves conservation,
>  then the dodgy, broad-brush picture you get from GBIF is
>  probably inadequate, and the non-specialist needs to find
>  specialists for further work: taxon specialists for taxa,
>  and area specialists for areas.
>  Whether broad-brush users of GBIF data would appreciate that
>  the picture is inadequate is just one problem. It could be
>  partially solved with more 'Warning!' messages from GBIF,
>  and maybe something similar from data providers.
>  I suspect the reality is that broad-brush users don't care
>  whether GBIF data are OK or not. This is a harder problem.
>  'Fit for purpose' is a nice-sounding Band-Aid but it leaves
>  open the questions 'How fit?' and 'For what purpose?'
>  Getting back to chameleons, the standard against which GBIF
>  data were compared was specialist-compiled, as it was in my
>  millipedes audit. Maybe the best future for GBIF isn't in
>  aggregation, but in *disaggregation*. When GBIF reckons it
>  has the bulk of existing records for taxon X, it could cut
>  them out and hire specialists to audit them. The annotation
>  would be from GBIF: 'This taxon's records need to be checked
>  by specialists and should not be used for decision-making'
>  In the meantime, while funded aggregators continue to
>  accumulate unvetted data from collections and other sources,
>  unfunded specialists continue to quietly compile more
>  reliable data and put it online. Another valuable GBIF
>  annotation would be: 'A vetted alternative to this taxon's
>  records is here [hyperlink]'.
>  --
>  Dr Robert Mesibov
>  Honorary Research Associate
>  Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and
>  School of Land and Food, University of Tasmania
>  Home contact:
>  PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
>  (03) 64371195; 61 3 64371195
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Dr. Lyubomir Penev
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