GUIDs for Taxon Names and Taxon Concepts

Richard Pyle deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG
Sat Nov 12 11:45:38 CET 2005

Hi Roger et al.,

I have done my best to illustrate my "one kind of GUID" proposal via
Scenario 5:

I also added the main concern I have regarding Scenario 4, which is that
Name instances may not be directly comparable, and therefore not directly

Let me re-emphazise that I have a long track record of championing the
distinction between taxon names and taxon concepts, so I understand the
importance of recognizing them as distinct entities. My concern at this
point is to find the "least common denominator" that can serve as the root
currency exchange of taxonomic information, and allow the greatest
flexibility in application at this early stage of TDWG-GUID standarization.

I put this together hastily, so I apologize if I was not clear.


-----Original Message-----
From: Taxonomic Databases Working Group GUID Project
[mailto:TDWG-GUID at LISTSERV.NHM.KU.EDU]On Behalf Of Roger Hyam
Sent: Friday, November 11, 2005 3:26 AM
Subject: Re: GUIDs for Taxon Names and Taxon Concepts

Hi Rich,

I think you are wrong in your conclusions that we do not need GUIDs for
TaxonNames and TaxonObjects but I need to do diagrams to illustrate the case
so have created a wiki page here:

I also intersperse some comments below.

Richard Pyle wrote:
Hi Roger,

Rich - yes. I think you sum up the difference between new combinations
in ICZN and ICBN well. But... just because the ICZN does not consider
the usage of a name in a different genus as a nomenclatural act does not
stop us creating a data object (TaxonName object) to represent what that
name looks like in the new genus - perhaps with its new ending and
possibly different author string (ICZN Recommendation 51G).

I agree that nothing is stopping us, but I forsee headaches down the road as
a result of doing so.  In your next message, you wrote:

"1. We have two kinds of GUID (one for TaxonNames and one for

>>>From this I interpret that TaxonName GUIDs are different with TaxonConcept
GUIDs -- is that correct?  If so, the problem is that a botanist would
assign a new TaxonName GUID to a new combination, and a zoologist would
assign a TaxonConcept GUID to the same entity, because "genus combination"
is a property of a name in botany, and a properyy of a usage (~concept) in

Yes, you could certainly force-treat zoological names as though they were
botanical names (treating new combinations as "new names"), just as you
could easily force-treat botanical names as though they were zoological
names (assigning TaxonName GUIDs only to basionyms, and representing new
combincations via Usage/TaxonConcept GUIDs).  I just believe that we will
come to regret it if we leave the distinction "fuzzy".

I am not suggesting we leave it fuzzy I am suggesting we leave it up to the
nomenclators and that it isn't a GUID issue. I don't leave the maintenance
of the brakes on my car fuzzy by not fixing them myself - I delegate it to a
mechanic. Just because we are not solving the problem here does not mean
that we are not going to get the problem solved.
My point has always been, and continues to be, that *IF* you have separate
"kinds of GUID" for TaxonNames and TaxonConcepts, the line between the two
should be unambigious (and ideally be consistent for both botany and
zoology).  After thinking about it some more, in the context of what has
been written on this thread, I find myself coming back to that first "IF".
Given that there seems to be a need and a desire to leave the definition of
a "name unit" (to which a GUID is assigned) loose and flexible, then perhaps
it would be premature to establish a GUID system for Name-Objects at all.
Instead, I think we can both simplify *and* disambiguate taxonomic objects
if there is only *ONE* GUID system -- which represents a Name-Usage

Then don't refer to the TaxonName GUIDs issued by nomenclators when you
issue your TaxonConcepts. Just ignore the nomenclator bit. If you are
correct then everyone will follow your lead. A two GUID system will just
degrade to a one GUID system if the names thing is wrong.
In the case of datasets consisting of only namestrings, with no specific
implied concept objects, the names can be interpreted as "NameString SEC
Nobody" (=Nominal TaxonConcept in TCS). Nomenclators could use whichever
subset of these Name-usage GUIDs that they wish to refer to their own
version of a name-object. For example, ZooBank can concern itself only with
those GUIDs attached to original basionym usage instances, and IPNI can
manage both basionyms usage instances and new-combination usage instances.
ConceptBank could expand the scope of GUIDs to all those usage instances
that represent defined concepts. Name indexers could use the broadest set of
GUIDs (effectively all name-usage instances).

I think you are mixing issues here. The name string probably represents a
TaxonConcept sec the dataset - depending on your intent. If you have had
people scoring observations to a checklist for an area for a number of years
then it would be convenient to treat the names as concepts so that you can
reason about how they may be related to other better defined concepts. They
are concepts sec your list. If they are just words you found in some books
then they are just words  till you intend to do something with them.

A nomenclator should not be publishing data other than nomenclatural data
(debatable what this is I know but no circumscription data anyway).

ConceptBank sounds like any indexer (like GBIF) that crawls the people who
are defining concepts of taxa and tries to provide sensible query expansion
on the basis of the GUIDs or however else it links the objects together.

So, in summary, my feeling is that if we are to think of "two kinds of GUID"
for taxon objects, then we need an unambiguous (and cross-Code) distinction
between the two.  If such a distinction is too cumbersome to draw (as it
seems to be, based on the current thread), then we should only go with one
kind of GUID -- and by default it should be the one kind that is most
flexible (=usage instance).

See the wiki page for why I think this is an erroneous conclusion.

Here is a definition of the two types of GUID:

A TaxonName GUID resolves to a data object that only contains information
about nomenclature. The provider does not intend anyone to be able to
identify a specimen to this GUID.
TaxonConcept GUIDs resolves to a data object that contains information about
the delimitation/circumscription/relationships of a taxon. The provider
intends people to be able to identify or otherwise related data to this
I think the notion of the intension of the provider is very important as it
answers many questions. "Should I attach a GUID to object X?" depends on
what you want other people to do with it. I don't think this is very
cumbersome definition? There is no 'natural' distinction between these two
things. It is a pragmatic split so we produce a series of 'rooted' directed
graphs of

All the best,



 Roger Hyam
 Technical Architect
 Taxonomic Databases Working Group
 roger at
 +44 1578 722782

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