[Taxacom] taxonomic names databases

Roderic Page Roderic.Page at glasgow.ac.uk
Tue Sep 6 14:12:36 CDT 2016


Hi David,

In many ways I absolutely agree. However, the issue of responsibility is a tricky one for organisations like GBIF to navigate. In my opinion, yes, GBIF should take responsibility for data quality and actively fix lots of the issues it encounters. After all, if people get data from GBIF and it is rubbish they tend to blame GBIF, so GBIF has a vested interest in cleaning stuff up (and it does a lot of cleaning already).

But, many organisations that provide data to GBIF are anxious to maintain their “ownership” of that data, and want issues sent to them to be fixed. GBIF has had to carefully negotiate this area, as reflected in awful phrases such as “GBIF-mobilised data” or “GBIF-mediated data” to emphasise that it’s not GBIF’s data. My sense is that very few data providers have the resources to fix issues that emerge when the data is exposed to a wider audience, so the model of original source fixing things is basically broken. There are ways to tackle this, modelled on what the open source software development community does, but this requires a cultural shift in how people think about data.

Regarding BHL (another project dear to my heart), I’m skeptical about games (see http://iphylo.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/purposeful-games-and-biodiversity.html ). Yes, it would be great to have the ability to annotate BHL pages and add OCR corrections (see a demo that allows this for BHL-derived content in BioStor http://iphylo.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/hypothesis-revisited-annotating.html ) This sort of thing is on BHL’s radar. Partly it’s a matter of funding, and funders have their own agenda as you note. Hence, it’s often the case that to get funding you need to promise to deliver something turns out isn’t terribly useful, but you’ve committed to deliver it.

Regards,

Rod


On 6 Sep 2016, at 17:33, David Campbell <pleuronaia at gmail.com<mailto:pleuronaia at gmail.com>> wrote:


  With "deflationary" I mean: saying that a certain practice or technology
is not that meaningful or impactful. "We are just organizing things." "It
is just a tool for navigation". "We are just synthesizing the data that are
currently out there; we take what people give us". "We are just doing with
the users want and need". "Classification does not matter very much".


Such assertions are particularly frustrating when they serve as excuses for
not taking responsibility:  "Your classification needs a correction - these
homonyms have been confused"  "We just aggregate the data - go to the
sources and tell them to fix it", followed by effort from the user to track
down the source databases, determine that they have the taxa correct and
the aggregator is the source of the error.

It seems odd and counterproductive that funding favors developing a video
game to try to improve BHL's OCR, but not providing a way for competent
users to help improve OCR, for example.  The game's not a bad idea, but it
won't do nearly  as much good as an actual systematist reading a page and
identifying the names found on it.  Of course, uncritical accepting of
feedback won't be better than uncritical accepting of data; there needs to
be someone who can sort junk from credible.

--
Dr. David Campbell
Assistant Professor, Geology
Department of Natural Sciences
Box 7270
Gardner-Webb University
Boiling Springs NC 28017
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---------------------------------------------------------
Roderic Page
Professor of Taxonomy
Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences
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