GUIDs, LSIDs, and metadata

Richard Pyle deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG
Sun Sep 11 11:59:41 CEST 2005

Thanks, Kevin.

I didn't realize that the LSID infrastructure was comparatively large
compared to other GUID systems that have been suggested. Whenever I've been
involved with discussions about GUIDs with people who understand the
implications much better than I do, it always seems like the availability of
open-source software tools is one of the reason people tend to favor LSIDs.

My vision of the GUID itself would be the 64-bit integer, which could be
wrapped into an LSID package, our used as a DOI number, or in some other
GUID system. I also believe the resolution service should be mirrored (via
robust and fast synchronization mechanisms) on hundreds or even thousands of
servers around the world -- at least for the "data commons" (e.g., names,
concepts, literature).

I FULLY agree that it is very important to clearly define what objects
should be assigned TDWG-standard GUIDs. In my view, the two object-domains
in most need of GUIDs for the biological informatics community are taxonomic
names, and "documentation" instanaces (~= authored/dated references,
publications, etc.), with taxon concepts represented by the intersection of
these two domains. Unfortunately, *neither* of these objects has been
clearly defined within our community.  It would be nice if we could simply
adopt an exisitng literature-based GUID system developed by some other
community, but from what I have learned, none quite meets the particular
needs of the taxonomic informatics community (hence the emerging TDWG
Literature Subgroup). The reason I single these two out from other data
domains are: 1) they are (or should be) central to virtually all taxonomic
data domains; and 2) they are particularly "thorny" in terms of unambiguous
natural keys and cross-dataset resolution.


Richard Pyle

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Taxonomic Databases Working Group GUID Project
> [mailto:TDWG-GUID at LISTSERV.NHM.KU.EDU]On Behalf Of Kevin Richards
> Sent: Sunday, September 11, 2005 9:55 AM
> Subject: Re: GUIDs, LSIDs, and metadata
> Good points.
> A few comments I have:
> I think LSIDs are assumed to solve all conflicts in the various
> datasets of taxonomic data.  However they are JUST resolvable
> IDs, anything else is infrastructure surrounding the LSID
> mechanisms.  An LSID refers to a specific set of bytes that
> resides on some computer somewhere.  The assumption that an LSID
> will refer to, for eaxample, a global 'taxon concept' that all
> other taxon records should point to, is not correct.  This relies
> on a system to be in place that provides the functionality for
> this global repository.
> Also I feel one argument AGAINST LSIDs is that the initial
> investment in infrastructure is large, ie the development and
> setting up of authorities, etc.  So I think this would lean
> people away from LSIDs, bot towards them.  The advantage with the
> LSID mechanism, I think, is that it is flexible enough to not
> rely on existing software and internet configuration.
> A GUID really needs to refer to a reasonably basic record, eg a
> name object rather than the entire taxon concept (although you
> could have a GUID for either).  This allows these individual
> components to be referenced from other systems/datasets without
> having to refer to and accept the enitre concept.  It is probably
> a good idea to map out which sort of taxonomic objects should get
> GUIDs and how they relate to other objects.
> Kevin Richards
> >>> deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG 09/11/05 6:50 AM >>>
> Lots of good discuccion points on GUIDs -- thanks, Rod.  I need to get two
> little people to two different soccer (football) games soon, so I have no
> time for an elaborate response.  But I do want to comment on one point,
> which I have been thinking a great deal about lately:
> > 7. I think the first priority for assigning GUIDs is museum specimens.
> > For taxon names (if not concepts) this is trivial, given that most name
> > databases have their own, internally unique ids (but not all -- those
> > databases that use names as primary keys, or which don't expose integer
> > identifiers will need to rethink their design).
> I think it's critical that, whatever GUID system we establish for taxon
> names (and concepts), we do it in the context of the next several
> decades of
> informatic landscape; not just in the context of immediate needs
> or current
> political climate.
> As you said at the start of your message, GUIDs by themselves are trivial.
> So the only real difference between establishing a system that is
> intuitive
> for the current needs and a system that will serve longer-term
> future needs,
> is a little bit of careful forethought.
> Official taxon name registration already exists for one of the major Codes
> of Nomenclature (Bacterial), and within the next fortnight we will see a
> public announcement of a plan for registration in another of the major
> Codes.  I predict that all Codes of nomenclature will implement mandatory
> registration for all new names by about 2010, and for all
> "available" names
> (i.e., since Linnaeus) within five to ten years thereafter.  So the
> medium-term future landscape in this case will be one in which
> all names are
> issued a GUID through their respective Commission of Nomenclature.
> Further, it's not unreasonable to predict that sometime within
> the next few
> decades we will converge on a unified "BioCode" for all organism names,
> meaning that the longer-term landscape has a single set of taxon names.
> Wouldn't it be nice, after that time, if we didn't have to
> forever maintain
> legacy GUIDs? In other words, wouldn't it be nice if the established GUID
> system for all taxon names were the same *now*, at the outset, so it's a
> non-issue to combine them all as one set of GUIDs later on?
> I'm not entirely sold on LSIDs, but it does seem that a lot of smart and
> knowledgable people are leaning that way.  My hesitation is
> mainly that one
> of the main reasons for leaning that way is that all sorts of software
> already exists for resolving them, so there is less overhead in initial
> implementation.  As long as LSID meet long-term needs, that shouldn't be a
> problem.  But 50 years from now, I'm not sure how wise it will
> seem that the
> universal GUID system adopted for biological data was influenced
> strongly by
> the available software of the time.  Imagine being locked in now to a
> universal system that was designed based on software that was available in
> 1955!
> But, not being able to predict which GUID system will be the best in the
> context of 2055, we really have no choice but to go with something that
> makes a lot of sense now (which is justififable, in that it's also very
> important that the delicate transition from no universal GUIDs to
> widespread
> universal GUIDs will be best supported by keeping it as painless
> as possible
> in the context of that transition time).
> But I still suggest we do things in a way that maximally keeps our options
> open.  For example, in the context of LSIDs, consider different paradigms
> for registring the fish name, Mygenus myspecies Hyam (Hi, Roger! :-) )
> One paradigm might have each major database create its own LSID:
> But then we're burdoned with the task of cross-mapping each of these, and
> also preserving the legacy IDs into perpetuity after we've eventually
> converged on a single taxon name GUID system.
> I was going to illustrate several other paradigms, but soccer
> departure time
> approaches, so I'll cut to the chase.  In the LSID paradigm, I
> would propose
> the following system:
>[Data Domain]:[randomly generated 64-bit integer]
> The "" part represents the decoupling of the GUID from the
> institution that initially created the GUID.  It encompases all domains of
> biological data (taxon names, concepts, specimens, etc.).  It could be
> "" or "", but we're not sure those organizations will be
> around 50 or 100 years from now.  I imagine that GBIF would create and
> manage the domain for the near-term.
> The "Data Domain" represents a tag for the main domain of data (e.g.
> "Specimens", or "TaxonNames", or whatever the major information
> domains end
> up being).
> The randomly generated 64-bit integer would be unique across all data
> domains, so that it, by itself, is unique within (no time
> now to explain the rationale for this...)
> Gotta run....more later.
> Aloha,
> Rich
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