[tdwg-tag] Specimen identifiers

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Thu Feb 23 22:09:40 CET 2012

Hi All,

As I've said many times before, the "shared" bit is useful, but far less
important than the "globally unique", "persistent", and "actionable" bits.
As Kevin says, we can handle the non-shared GUIDs (as long as they meet the
other three criteria) by simply building a cross-mapping service; but that's
only useful to the extent that the identifiers are truly unique, persistent,
and actionable (in that order of importance).

Once we have a real infrastructure that achieves critical mass of adoption
for integrating the silos, then I'm sure eventually our community will
converge toward shared identifiers (specifically, towards the ones that are
most robustly persistent, and provide the best services when actioned upon),
and the superfluous identifiers will eventually fade into becoming
historical metadata (like NODC numbers in the context of ITIS).

But without an infrastructure to get people to come out of their silos and
"plug in" to the biodiversity informatics "matrix", it's unlikely that we'll
ever get to the point of collapsing multiple identical GUIDs into a single
shared GUID for the same object.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: tdwg-tag-bounces at lists.tdwg.org [mailto:tdwg-tag-
> bounces at lists.tdwg.org] On Behalf Of Kevin Richards
> Sent: Thursday, February 23, 2012 9:41 AM
> To: Roderic Page; TDWG TAG
> Subject: Re: [tdwg-tag] Specimen identifiers
> I agree Rod, it would be ideal to have unique, shared identifiers for
> specimens, and as many other types of data as possible.
> The problem here is the "shared" bit.  This is what most people hope for
> hoped would come out of all the GUID and vocabulary work that has been
> done.  But you know how hard it is to get different projects,
> datasets to really share IDs.  Pretty much impossible, so I have moved on
> from this dream and hope to solve this more by linkages, linked data type
> approaches instead.
> Another problem is what the identifier refers to.  As someone (I think
> said in a recent post, two different people may apply the same identifier
> slightly different things - eg to the "name" of a person, or to the
> itself.  This is another barrier to reuse of shared identifiers.
> You may think that specimens should be very simple, it is just a specimen
> that you refer to, but there can be subtle differences, for example if
> someone has data about the accessioned physical specimen and another has
> an image of that specimen - they could both well say that they are
> the same specimen so give these two "different" objects the same
> Kevin
> -----Original Message-----
> From: tdwg-tag-bounces at lists.tdwg.org [mailto:tdwg-tag-
> bounces at lists.tdwg.org] On Behalf Of Roderic Page
> Sent: Thursday, 23 February 2012 11:38 p.m.
> Subject: [tdwg-tag] Specimen identifiers
> I've recently written an number of posts on the implications of the lack
> specimen-level identifiers, which makes it very hard to link different
> of data together, such as GBIF and Genbank
> http://iphylo.blogspot.com/2012/02/linking-gbif-and-genbank.html , and are
> also a factor in creating duplicate records in GBIF
> http://iphylo.blogspot.com/2012/02/how-many-specimens-does-gbif-
> really.html
> I know this is something of a hobby horse of mine, but we can have all the
> wonderful ontologies and vocabularies we want, if we don't have globally
> unique, shared identifiers to glue this stuff together we are going to
> ourselves making yet more silos...
> Regards
> Rod
> ---------------------------------------------------------
> Roderic Page
> Professor of Taxonomy
> Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine College
> Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences Graham Kerr Building University of
> Glasgow Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK
> Email: r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk
> Tel: +44 141 330 4778
> Fax: +44 141 330 2792
> AIM: rodpage1962 at aim.com
> Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1112517192
> Twitter: http://twitter.com/rdmpage
> Blog: http://iphylo.blogspot.com
> Home page: http://taxonomy.zoology.gla.ac.uk/rod/rod.html
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