Stinger Stinger at FIU.EDU
Tue Jul 25 11:29:54 CEST 2000

I must wholeheartedly agree with Peter here, he has put his finger on an extremely important concept.  The measurement vs. dimension-reducing-semantic-construction argument should be extended to geocoding as well.  This appeared as a given to me but I have recently reviewed yet another geographic coding scheme.  I think that we might even actually be able to agree on some standard measurements within groups, even if we can't agree on how we are each going to interpret them.

"P. F. Stevens" wrote:

> Kevin: >Or can we have a set of linked standards - one for describing in the boring
> >old characters/states/taxa way, and others for the more space-shuttle ways
> >that can be linked in as they develop.
> and Eric >it is rather difficult to
> >combine datasets based on differing character lists, even when those
> >character lists are fairly similar. There is no mechanism for "mapping"
> >character states from one dataset onto those of another.
> We are back to an issue that was raised earlier, so at the risk of boring people by repetition, the way to record data is not (if at all possible) as states, but as measurements. Measurements of the same character from different studies may then be combinable, and states extracted from the measurements. But if one is combining states, then one is likely to be in trouble. The "approved shapes" that a committee of the Systematics Association came up with some years back are fine for communication in descriptions and conversations, but the best way to record shape data, whether for phylogenetic analysis or deciding if one heap of specimens really is distinct from another, is as measurements.
> (I agree that a list of "approved" characters is probably not attainable at present.)
> This raises another issue that Eric mentioned:
> >Another aspect
> >might be the inclusion of meta-data (e.g., who recorded this observation,
> >and on what material?) While this sort of information can be placed into
> >DELTA "text" characters and comments (as could virtually anything
> >representable as a string of bytes, with a bit of effort), the use of text
> >characters does not provide for well-structured access to the information.
> This issue of metadata is very important: if a DNA sequence is linked to a voucher, then all measurements/observations should be linked to specimens. In an "ideal" database, there would be links to specimens, if only through a literature citation; not being able to make easy links in the literature can make it difficult or impossible to use, and not having such links in a database greatly reduces its value. If I go wrong in including a specimen in a particular taxon, I want to be able to pull out all information associated with this specimen, whether it is simply length of leaf blade or how the anther wall develops, when I put it in its cotrrect place.
> Peter S.

Gerald "Stinger" Guala, Ph.D.
Keeper of the Herbarium
Fairchild Tropical Garden
11935 Old Cutler Rd.
Miami, FL 33156

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