[Taxacom] Chameleons, GBIF, and the Red List

Bob Mesibov mesibov at southcom.com.au
Sun Aug 24 18:02:56 CDT 2014

Hi, Rich.

(A couple of quick comments before I go visit... a museum!, to borrow specimens whose associated data I'll be upgrading and publishing.)

The feedback-to-GBIF issue is the one I demo'ed and discussed in my 2013 audit paper, whose take-home lesson wasn't that GBIF can't be trusted, but that it *does not have effective mechanisms for feeding back to source*. An alternative, also discussed in my paper, is direct contact between data auditor and data source - by email. No one in the aggregator community has disagreed that this works, because obviously it does. The argument is that it can't easily be automated (how exactly do you flag this at GBIF level?) and that 'it doesn't scale'.

So instead of encouraging and supporting more data auditing, both within the GBIF universe (see the marine velvet worm example), GBIF and its supporters retreat to the position 'We're only repeating what we've been told (by data providers). We do no effective data-checking and aren't repsonsible for what we publish'. 

As Stephen says, "One solution would be for GBIF to simply point to data provider sites (so you could look up a taxon on GBIF, and it would tell you where to go for data). But, then GBIF would be very simple, and not much better than Google!" A huge advantage to GBIF-as-meta-catalogue would be that you wouldn't have to look at a record twice: once in the abbreviated/truncated form you get in GBIF, and then again in its full, complete glory in the source database.

I'd be 100% supportive of GBIF as a meta-catalogue, especially if the savings realised were directed to data curation and data publishing at provider level. Quentin Groom says E4 million wouldn't cover every provider, but that's not an argument: just because you can't support *everyone* doesn't mean you shouldn't support *someone*. As I said earlier, the marginal benefit of feeding either [more support for expert-managed, taxon- or area-specific online resources] or [more support for better data curation at provider level] would be greater than feeding the same resources into GBIF.

"There may be another solution, however, which is for GBIF to cache corrections submitted by people like you and other experts, such that these annotations/corrections can be made visible to all users of GBIF data; not just the source datasets.  Perhaps this feature already exists.  Perhaps the politics of implementing such a feature are too daunting to overcome."

Yeah, well. I don't see links on the GBIF website to alternative data sources, which would be a lot easier to add than data caches.
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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