[Taxacom] taxonomic names databases

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Thu Sep 1 20:07:35 CDT 2016

Tony said "Also note that the individual sub-compilations within WoRMS are all individually citable (with appropriate authorship), it is merely for the entire collection that authorship is ascribed to the "WoRMS Editorial Board"

Which is again to confuse a compiler with an author! Biodiversity databases are (or should be) compilations and not creative novelties (created outside of peer review, with all the subjectivities that entails)! This is independent of other issues mentioned in this thread.


On Fri, 2/9/16, Tony Rees <tonyrees49 at gmail.com> wrote:

 Subject: Re: [Taxacom] taxonomic names databases
 To: "Nico Franz" <nico.franz at asu.edu>, "taxacom" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
 Received: Friday, 2 September, 2016, 12:58 PM
 Hi Nico,
 I do see where you are coming
 from, it's just one point along a spectrum
 where I sit closer to the other end for
 pragmatic reasons ( :) ). Again,
 the example of (let us say, Eschmeyer's Catalog of
 Fishes or
 similar), while generally
 accepting his work as a "point of truth" if you
 like, that would not stop me from modifying a
 record obtained from there
 for my own system
 if I believed it was necessary (citing appropriate
 alternative sources etc.).
 Look, one can make (and we are making perhaps)
 a separate argument for a
 system which
 natively incorporates either a single, or a variety of
 alternative taxonomic viewpoints (the former is
 obviously easier to
 implement than the
 latter). Perhaps the latter more closely reflects the
 practices of active taxonomists, however there
 is also (I would contend) a
 clear desire for
 the latter - e.g. a "consensus classification",
 though this may change through time and
 its exact form be argued about -
 for a whole
 class of users of taxonomic data (clients of the system)
 need e.g. a management hierarchy by
 which to organise their information,
 preferably also one that will be taken up by
 others (such as let us say,
 angiosperms). OK, APGIII may not be perfect - and has
 been superseded by APGIV anyway -
 but at least you say if your [extant]
 angiosperm data are arranged according to
 APGIII, others will know what you
 talking about.
 From the
 "about WoRMS" page you cited:
 The classification used
 is a ‘compromise’ between established systems and
 recent changes. Its aim is to aid data
 management, rather than suggest any
 taxonomic or phylogenetic opinion on species
 Perhaps this is selling the system a little
 short - in my experience the
 various sector
 editors do try to incorporate recent changes, at least
 these seem to be evidence-based - but
 you will see a tacit acknowledgement
 here of
 the practical value of a single management hierarchy here,
 many users appreciate.
 Also note that the individual
 sub-compilations within WoRMS are all
 individually citable (with appropriate
 authorship), it is merely for the
 collection that authorship is ascribed to the "WoRMS
 Best - Tony
 Tony Rees, New South Wales, Australia
 On 2 September 2016 at 09:58, Nico Franz <nico.franz at asu.edu>
 > Thank you,
 >    I do
 think that I could have spoken more clearly, but also think
 > we look at things a bit
 differently here. In building bigger and bigger
 > "backbones" (which go all the
 way to the species-level tips, right?), I
 > think necessarily the lines between author
 and aggregator get blurred. But,
 > design
 can model the distinction, and the lack thereof.
 >    On the
 author-to-aggregator spectrum, Eschmeyer (
 > http://www.calacademy.org/scientists/projects/catalog-of-fishes)
 > evidently more on the author side of
 the spectrum than others "sources" of
 > similar or even smaller scope. I assume
 though that Dr. Eschmeyer (sorry
 > for
 this appearing to get personal - absolutely not intended but
 I believe
 > needed to make the case),
 might not personally claim equally profound
 > expertise regarding the systematics of all
 fish lineages, in the sense of
 > all
 lineages equally being part of his active revisionary fish
 > research program, so to
 speak. Whenever we speak of biodiversity, largely
 > reliably, we do draw on past and current
 expertise that is in effect partly
 borrowed (from past authors) and distributed (in various
 sources). Blurry.
 > But it does matter
 immensely, I believe, that Dr. Eschmeyer is a person,
 > with a personal and internationally valued
 reputation, a personal record of
 commitment to "his" domain. Someone that one can
 disagree with, combing
 > through the
 Eschmeyer catalog, and presumably a signal will come
 > either reconciliatory or
 resisting. Those features, to me, are features of
 > authorship.
 >    IRMNG is somewhere on that spectrum,
 to be sure, and likely not so far
 > from
 Eschmeyer (as evidenced by your objection). Though note the
 > personalized citation practice: http://www.marinespecies.org/about.php
 >    Poor design, to
 my mind, is the kind of design where - qua aggregation
 > - a sense of authorship is weakened,
 obscured, to the point of "this
 backbone just is". I believe that is a design that
 necessarily must result
 > in lowered
 trust, because I believe at a fundamental level that good
 > taxonomy has an individual expert-driven
 "flavor". You might call it
 subjective..I think the design has to honor the notion that
 expertise is
 > personalized.
 >    The reason why I
 would not defer to Dr. Eschmeyer's expertise by fiat
 > is that in certain cases (fish experts
 please help me or let me dangle in
 eternal shame and agony), I may well think that he is
 mistaken in his
 > personally researched
 or editorially chosen preferred classificatory
 > representation. Maybe I disagree with his
 filtering of the latest
 > phylogenetic
 inferences into the catalog.
 >    And I disagree on the "they
 won't appreciate much" issue too - again,
 > to me that points to design. For any given
 group, the aggregating
 > environment can
 in principle store multiple conflicting views, and flag
 > these as such. That takes nothing away
 from an author's unique contribution
 > or motivation, it just means designing for
 multiple views and offering
 > choices in
 cases of conflict. That is how taxonomy operates throughout
 > entire "primary"
 literature (hard-to-define term, see above), except
 > apparently in the aggregation domain where
 conflict and persistent
 > disagreement
 tends to get designed away (https://bmcbioinformatics.
 >    Is it likely
 much harder to build consistently expert-identifying,
 > conflict-embracing, but also scalable
 systems? Of course. But that does not
 make the decision not do so any less of a choice
 > understandable), and one
 that has trust-related consequences.
 > Best, Nico
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