[Taxacom] Chameleons, GBIF, and the Red List

Bob Mesibov mesibov at southcom.com.au
Thu Aug 21 17:38:42 CDT 2014


"Bob, if I understand your argument correctly, it’s that access to mostly unveiled biodiversity data isn’t much use, and in your view that’s mostly what GBIF is serving up."

I think you meant 'unvetted'. What I thought I was saying clearly is that unvetted data isn't useful to specialists or to anyone serious about conservation at the species or geographically local level. Let's call them Skeptical Users. Unvetted data *is* useful for people wanting a broad-brush picture, or wanting to make generalisations that people on this list would find unacceptably broad, or whose uses simply don't require accuracy. Let's call those people Casual Users.

For specialist and conservation purposes, GBIF is unlikely *ever* to be suitable for Skeptical Users. The more annotations and links you burden it with, the harder it gets to use, and the more attractive alternative sources become, such as bottom-up, specialist-built databases and websites, and scattered gems of geographically local information found by googling, emailing, phoning around and bumping into people at conferences.

GBIF will *always* be useful to Casual Users. Stop worrying about links and annotations for those people. They don't care, and they certainly won't be following them up. That's the market for biodiversity aggregators. Specialists like me and those Europeans I mentioned will shop elsewhere.

What I suggested (tongue in cheek) was that GBIF could become useful to Skeptical Users if it *disaggregated* what it offers into bits based on how they were vetted (and when, now that I think of it), and beyond that, directly supported vetting by specialists, rather than the current, incredibly dumb model of 'Someone Out There Will Notice An Error And Tell Us About It'.

"Assuming that it would be nice to have access to good-quality distributional data in one place, what if GBIF provided, say, distributions of species that had been cleaned and had some degree of expert scrutiny. In other words, say a researcher publishes an evidence-based distribution map, what if that was stored on GBIF in a citable form (e.g., had a DOI), and others could download that distribution and make use of it?"

Um... I'm missing something here? If it's published and citable, do I need GBIF to help me find it?

"+1 for extracting from the literature, especially if we can automate this at scale (although that will give Bob nightmares)."

Please don't confuse the elegant record-publishing done by Pensoft (for example) with parsing of OCR'ed literature. The latter is the 'Chinese Whispers' of biodiversity informatics.
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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