[Taxacom] Filling the world with biodiversity data errors

Donat Agosti agosti at amnh.org
Fri Dec 4 03:07:01 CST 2020

The fact that you can get a list of Iceland materials citations, each linked to the taxonomic treatment that you instantaneously can consult, allows you to do things you can only dream of in a world of closed access publications.
Now you can criticize and we have increasingly tools in place to fix errors.

Better would be to stop publishing this way and make research results accessible that no extraction is needed. Look at the Biodiversity Data Journal as the way to go.


From: Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>
Sent: Friday, December 4, 2020 9:36 AM
To: John Grehan <calabar.john at gmail.com>
Cc: Donat Agosti <agosti at amnh.org>; Taxacom <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>; Richard Pyle <deepreef at bishopmuseum.org>
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Filling the world with biodiversity data errors


The analogy is a poor one anyway. All it really says is that to survive, one only has to be better than the competition, but this isn't about the survival of Plazi/Zenodo! It is about doing all we reasonably can do to either prevent the generation of errors*, or, better, to allow rapid fixing of errors when they do occur.
*Whether an error is trivial or serious depends on the context of what one is trying to do. For example, if one was simply counting the number of species of everything recorded from Iceland, then one extra doesn't make much difference. However, if one were using Plazi to research Zenascus luniger, then the error becomes much more serious.

On Friday, 4 December 2020, 08:13:19 pm NZDT, John Grehan <calabar.john at gmail.com<mailto:calabar.john at gmail.com>> wrote:

In other words it is better for two to outrun the bear than one :)

On Thu, Dec 3, 2020 at 11:54 PM Stephen Thorpe via Taxacom <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu<mailto:taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>> wrote:
 PS: I forgot to mention that I don't blame anyone for making errors, but I just think it important that any errors get fixed asap. That is the whole point, i.e. provide an efficient error correcting facility. It isn't about blame, it is about fixing it.
    On Friday, 4 December 2020, 05:50:11 pm NZDT, Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz<mailto:stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>> wrote:

  Well Rich, it rather depends on the frequency of such errors, which I don't have any grasp of, at present. If the frequency of such errors is low, say 1%, then there isn't much of a problem (unless you particularly want data on Zenascus luniger!) However, if the frequency of such errors is high, which might be the case, as far as I know, then there is more of a problem, even if it is the best of the available alternatives. Assuming that the data does actually get used by somebody for some purpose, a high proportion of such errors isn't necessarily better than nothing! Imagine if the species was added to the list of protected threatened species of Iceland, on the basis that there were so few known specimens and subsequent surveys turned up none! The mythical extinct Icelandic aderid! Anyway, I don't see anything wrong with pointing out that there is room for improvement!
    On Friday, 4 December 2020, 05:38:52 pm NZDT, Richard Pyle <deepreef at bishopmuseum.org<mailto:deepreef at bishopmuseum.org>> wrote:

 Two guys walking through the woods.  A huge bear starts to charge them.  The first guy sits down to put on his running shoes.  The second guy says, "Are you crazy?!? You'll never out-run that bear!" The first guy says, "I don't have to out-run the bear. I just have to out-run YOU."

Moral of the story: You don't need to perfect.  You just need to be better than the alternative.  From where I sit, what PLAZI is doing is far, FAR better than the alternative!

Keep those running shoes on, Donat!


Richard L. Pyle, PhD
Senior Curator of Ichthyology | Director of XCoRE
Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum
1525 Bernice Street, Honolulu, HI 96817-2704
Office: (808) 848-4115;  Fax: (808) 847-8252
eMail: deepreef at bishopmuseum.org<mailto:deepreef at bishopmuseum.org>
Our Mission: Bishop Museum inspires our community and visitors through the exploration and celebration of the extraordinary history, culture, and environment of Hawaiʻi and the Pacific.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Taxacom <taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu<mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>> On Behalf Of
> Stephen Thorpe via Taxacom
> Sent: Thursday, December 3, 2020 5:27 PM
> To: Donat Agosti <agosti at amnh.org<mailto:agosti at amnh.org>>; Taxacom
> <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu<mailto:taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>>
> Subject: [Taxacom] Filling the world with biodiversity data errors
> Hi Donat and Taxacom,The attempt to automate data harvesting, without
> human scrutiny, continues to fill the world with biodiversity data errors.
> Specifically, on zenodo, for Zenascus luniger, if you click on 'specimens', you
> get
> trash: http://tb.plazi.org/GgServer/html/03A48794FFF8FFC66F8549E97070F8<https://nam04.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Ftb.plazi.org%2FGgServer%2Fhtml%2F03A48794FFF8FFC66F8549E97070F8&data=04%7C01%7Cagosti%40amnh.org%7C7d25c93694d842f9df7b08d8982f9ce3%7Cbe0003e8c6b9496883aeb34586974b76%7C0%7C0%7C637426677563473841%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C1000&sdata=Pf%2BJAjJNLMK3dsfqgotWGkDcQjN3DnevbZYEMP8bVVM%3D&reserved=0>
> F1
> It is garbage for the following reasons: (1) The species is endemic to N.Z., but
> the 4 specimens recorded are 2 from Iceland and the other 2 unknown, leaving
> Iceland as the only location on the map!(2) Of the 4 specimens, 2 are
> supposedly lectotypes (no, there is no synonymy)!(3) The treatment upon
> which this data is based only mentions 2 specimens (lectotype and
> paralectotype), both from New Zealand.I'm not sure how widespread such
> problems are on zenodo, but there seems to be little reason to think that this
> is a rare case, is there?Cheers, Stephen
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