[Taxacom] taxonomic names databases

Kalfatovic, Martin KalfatovicM at si.edu
Wed Sep 7 16:10:30 CDT 2016

David, the BHL "Purposeful Gaming" project was funded as an experiment that provided BHL with some interesting results and insights, and yes, funders like flashy things over infrastructure.

An exciting new project was recently funded (through the Museum of Comparative Zoology by the Institute of Museum and Library Services in the US) that will help BHL outline some of the use cases and functions that we'll want to build into what we're calling "BHL Version 2".


We are currently recruiting for 5 NDSR fellows to work on the project at selected BHL participating institutions. If anyone on the list knows candidates that are qualified, please have them take a look and apply: http://blog.biodiversitylibrary.org/2016/08/national-digital-stewardship-residency.html

The project will get underway in earnest in January 2017 and we'll look forward  to working with the community on that. We'll also be doing a brief presentation at TDWG this December on that and other grants.


Martin R. Kalfatovic
Associate Director, Digital Programs and Initiatives Division || Program Director, Biodiversity Heritage Library
Smithsonian Libraries
email: kalfatovicm at si.edu
tel: 202.633.1705 | Skype: martin.kalfatovic | VIAF ID: 32094717 (Personal) | ORCID ID: 0000-0002-4563-4627 (Personal)
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-----Original Message-----
From: Taxacom [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Roderic Page
Sent: Tuesday, September 06, 2016 3:13 PM
To: David Campbell <pleuronaia at gmail.com>
Cc: taxacom <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] taxonomic names databases

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.



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 Graham Kerr Building University of Glasgow Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK

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