[Taxacom] Wikidata and Wikispecies

Paul Kirk P.Kirk at kew.org
Sun Oct 25 07:49:28 CDT 2015

Just a quick comment here Rod because when I read your post there were too many singulars and plurals mixed together that I was not sure what you were saying.

So, a name (singular) has an identifier, a taxon (singular) could have a single identifier but ... a taxon could also be made up of more than one name identifiers for which one is 'tagged' as the correct name for the taxon concept (the other name(s) [the synonyms] could be just a bunch of homotypic/objective synonyms of two or more of these bunches - i.e. heterotypic/subjective synonyms). Of course, this is a simplification because these taxon concepts are just based around the specimens which are the name bearing types - a more comprehensive taxon concept would include other specimens (museum, herbarium, fungarium accession 'numbers'), published descriptions and illustrations (via DOIs) and perhaps sequence data (GenBank accession 'numbers').

Just a few random thoughts ...


p.s. still not sure about LSIDs :-)
From: Taxacom <taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> on behalf of Roderic Page <Roderic.Page at glasgow.ac.uk>
Sent: 25 October 2015 12:08
To: TaxaCom
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Wikidata and Wikispecies

Hi Andy,

Much as I like Wikidata, I’m a bit sceptical.

>From my perspective, leaving aside any sociology, Wikispecies’ biggest limitation was that it didn’t cleanly separate taxonomic names (factual statements about who published a name and where and when they did that) and taxonomic concepts (“taxa”, the things that most biologists talk about, such as a particular species). For some background on the distinction se http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1223932, PDF here http://www.hyam.net/publications/prometheus_1.pdf

Not clearly separating these effectively doomed Wikispecies because why would you have two wikis for taxa? And, if you did, clearly Wikipedia was going to win.

In my opinion the niche for Wikispecies was nomenclature, a wiki of taxonomic names where we could have all the names, their variants, the objective links between them, the publications, their dates, and their authors. Not necessarily exciting stuff, but vital, and also factual.

Nomenclature would seem ideally suited to Wikidata, in that its a set of facts, increasingly linked to stable identifiers (DOIs for papers, ORCID, ISNI, etc. for people, LSIDs for names). However, Wikidata seems to conflate taxa and taxonomic names (to be fair, many taxonomic databases do this), and so you have things such as IPNI identifiers being associated with taxa, when these are identifiers for names, not taxa. There doesn’t seem to be a Wikidata item for taxonomic names.

So, my concern is that Wikidata is setting itself up for problems down the line, problems it could avoid by rethinking how it handles nomenclature and taxonomy.  The analogy isn’t exact, but it’s a bit like the difference between a person’s name and the actual person. For example,today’s featured page on “Juliet” https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Q15639217 is closer to what I think Wikidata should be doing for taxonomic names. For example, for the actress Juliet Stevenson https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Q272518 Wikidata gives her first name not as a string “Juliet” but as an instance of the female given name “Juliet” https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Q20000410 . Equivalently for taxa,  it’s “accepted name” be an instance of taxonomic name, and all publication and nomenclatural stuff for the name should be associated with that instance.That way you could also separate identifiers for names (e.g., IPNI, Zoobank, ION, etc.) from identifiers for taxa (GBIF, EOL, NCBI, etc.).



Roderic Page
Professor of Taxonomy
Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences
Graham Kerr Building
University of Glasgow
Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK

Email:  Roderic.Page at glasgow.ac.uk<mailto:Roderic.Page at glasgow.ac.uk>
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On 23 Oct 2015, at 15:45, Andy Mabbett <andy at pigsonthewing.org.uk<mailto:andy at pigsonthewing.org.uk>> wrote:

Those of you who have an interest in Wikispecies, or Wikidata (two
projects hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation, who also host Wikipedia)
might like to know that the two projects are now linked. For an
overview, see;


This is the first stage of their integration; the second will allow
Wikispecies to pull data from Wikidata onto its pages.

What happens after that is still being discussed, but technically
there is potential for all the data to be migrated to Wikidata (where
a lot of it is currently duplicated), and for Wikidata to be a front
end to view or edit that data.

Andy Mabbett
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