Taxon debate synthesis?

Roderic Page at BIO.GLA.AC.UK
Wed Nov 16 13:27:37 CET 2005

Two quick comments:

On 16 Nov 2005, at 12:04, Richard Pyle wrote:

> I would point out that within the "TaxonName" flavor, there may be
> "subflavors" like "Basionym", "New Combination", and "Orthographic
> Variant" -- just as within the TaxonConcept flavor there are
> "Original",
> "Revision", "Nominal", etc. subflavors. (Apologies for my Amerikanized
> spelling...)

Before we have a flurry of name flavours (yuck), I'd suggest that many
of these "flavours" are really relationships between names, e.g.
"Physeter catadon" is a misspelling of "Physeter catodon". Hence, I'd
argue for having GUIDs for these two name strings, and in the metadata
for one name have something like

<isMisspellingOf rdf:resource="urn:lsid:authority:namespace:123" />

Hence, I think before we embark on adding complexity, why not have
GUIDs for names and then specify relationships between these names?
This is what I've been doing with the LSIDs we serve here.

We could do with an ontology for these relationships so that, for
example, if somebody asks for the synonyms of name "x", and two names
are linked by the relationship "isBasionymOf" we recover that
relationship (in other words, our tools know that 'isBasionymOf" is a
kind of synonym).

Again, let's try and keep things simple.

This leads to a much more general topic, but I think if we adopt RDF
for our metadata we gain a lot of query and inference tools "for free."
GUIDs by themselves are boring, it's the metadata that matters.

> My general feeling is that most of the useful information is metadata,
> the
> only candidates for data (in my mind) being the literal text string
> (NameString), a ref pointer to a defined Documentation instance (if
> any),
> and perhaps position information (e.g. page) within the Documentation
> instance.  All of these might be intially recorded in error, but could
> be
> corrected via the LSID revision id (version).

I think everything about a name probably is metadata, and doing this
opens up the possibility of doing useful things with that metadata (see
above). In the LSID stuff we've been doing at Glasgow the only time we
provide data is if we are serving images, in which case it makes sense
to serve a stream of bytes (e.g., a TIFF image). In one sense, data
isn't that interesting (or, put another way in many cases it requires a
person to make sense of it, whereas computers can handle metadata).



Professor Roderic D. M. Page
Editor, Systematic Biology
Graham Kerr Building
University of Glasgow
Glasgow G12 8QP
United Kingdom

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