[tdwg-content] Plea for competency questions. Was Re: New terms need resolution: "Individual"

Bob Morris morris.bob at gmail.com
Thu Jul 14 17:10:47 CEST 2011

There is a series of jokes, and an entire TV quiz show, essentially
starting from the meme "What is the question to which the answer is
<X>".  Now, I am not a biologist (surprise!), so it is  likely that
domain ignorance  leaves me unable to understand whether all the
postings in the thread about new DwC term resolution  are arguing from
the same set of questions their authors hope to have answered by a
resolution of the term "Individual".  (It's even a little unclear to
me whether everybody has the same notion of "resolution of a term",
but that's a whole different discussion, which would contain a lot of
uses of  "rdf:type" and the contentious "rdfs:domain").

I speculate that lengthy term definition debates would be shorter if
they started with agreement on competency questions for the term.
Competency questions are sort of usage scenarios cast as questions.
See http://marinemetadata.org/references/competencyquestionsoverview .

Bob Morris

On Thu, Jul 14, 2011 at 2:41 AM, Richard Pyle <deepreef at bishopmuseum.org> wrote:
> My turn to disagree (strongly, in this case).  It's not an instance of a
> taxon, it's an instance of an Organism.  A taxon is merely a non-factual
> (i.e., opinion-based)  attribute of an organism, secondarily associated via
> an Identification instance.
> I could probably be comfortable with "OrganismInstance"; but in that case,
> why not just "Organism" as Paul suggested?  Isn't "Instance" sort of implied
> by all the classes?
> I am certainly open to debate about where the "upper boundary" of an
> instance of this class, and I agree that "population" could be interpreted
> more as a low level of "taxon", rather than a high level of "organism".  But
> I certainly don't think that instances of this class should be limited to a
> singular organism.  Would a coral head then constitute thousands of
> instances of this class?  Surely such colonies could be collapsed into a
> single instance of this class.  And the same would likely also be useful for
> colonies of insects (ants, termites, bees, etc.), as well as small groups
> (pack of wolves, pod of whales, etc.); not to mention a specimen "lot" in a
> Museum collection.
> I agree it should have only *one* taxon, but that there should be no upper
> limit on the rank of this taxon. If more than one taxon is identified, then
> there needs to be a separate instance of this class for each identified
> taxon.  But this only applies when multiple taxa are acknowledged -- it does
> NOT restrict multiple taxa being linked to the same instance via multiple
> identifications when there is a difference of opinion about what the correct
> taxon identity should be.  In other words, an instance of this class may be
> identified as "A" *or* "B", but could not legitimately be identified as "A"
> *and* "B" simultaneously (except, perhaps in the case of hybrids, but that's
> another situation altogether).
> More later.
> Aloha,
> Rich
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: tdwg-content-bounces at lists.tdwg.org [mailto:tdwg-content-
>> bounces at lists.tdwg.org] On Behalf Of Gregor Hagedorn
>> Sent: Tuesday, July 12, 2011 10:09 AM
>> To: Steven J. Baskauf
>> Cc: tdwg-content at lists.tdwg.org
>> Subject: Re: [tdwg-content] New terms need resolution: "Individual"
>> > represent a single taxon.  I think that Individual is probably not a
>> > good name due to confusion with the technical use of that term
>> elsewhere.
>> TaxonInstance seems to me to be perhaps most precise.
>> Personally I have a problem merging individual with population, since
>> population -> metapopulation -> subspecies form a continuum in my
>> understanding. But I am quite willing to be pragmatical :-)
>> Gregor
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Robert A. Morris

Emeritus Professor  of Computer Science
100 Morrissey Blvd
Boston, MA 02125-3390
IT Staff
Filtered Push Project
Department of Organismal and Evolutionary Biology
Harvard University

email: morris.bob at gmail.com
web: http://efg.cs.umb.edu/
web: http://etaxonomy.org/mw/FilteredPush
phone (+1) 857 222 7992 (mobile)

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