Taxa, Taxon Names and Globally Unique Identifiers in Perspective.

Tring the Fox
Tring the Fox

Here is the first draft of a book chapter I have written for an upcoming Systematics Association volume. My intention with this work is to outline the current situation with regard to taxonomy and GUIDs for a slightly more general audience. It includes a walkthough of the difference between nomenclature and taxonomy and an explanation of why nomenclature “sucks” – I don’t actually use the ‘s’ word in the chapter.

There are probably still some typos and there may be some factual errors – if so I’d really like to hear about them so I can get them ironed out before the book goes to press.

Taxa, Taxon Names and Globally Unique Identifiers in Perspective. (PDF ~ 332kb)


Back story: I was asked to contribute to a new Systematics Association volume “Descriptive Taxonomy: The Foundation of Biodiversity Research” to be published by Cambridge University Press in the autumn. I have written my chapter and it has been accepted but not edited. I am an advocate of open access to scientific publications and it became clear that this publication was not going to be available on the web let alone on an open access basis so I asked CUP if I could publish it through Nature Precedings and they said “No” – but they positively encourage authors to publish drafts of their work on their own websites. This is a good compromise as it keeps my moral superiority intact and enables me to move at a reasonable speed but also allows CUP to have a business model producing those things they put in libraries…. what were the called? ah books!

I would advocate that anyone else who is writing contributions to CUP books take advantage of this arrangement and prepublish their material on their own website thus making it as widely and freely available as possible.

Edit: I just updated the PDF to include a few comments I have received.  You can still read the Old Version (PDF ~ 332kb) if you like

4 Comments on "Taxa, Taxon Names and Globally Unique Identifiers in Perspective."

  1. Excellent chapter! I like the term “folksonomy”. Have I missed something here because your clear explanation shows how the problem isn’t nomenclature after all – its the lack of taxon circumscription, inadequate taxonomy at its core. Name+usage (sensu author X, date)is a taxon-concept and therefore needs to be labelled with a LSID that underlies the name-sensu X (per Rich Pyle).

  2. @Jon Todd Thanks Jon. Yes I am more or less saying that. My worry is that nomenclature is such a resource hog. People spend a lot of time messing with names and rules and most non-taxonomist (and many taxonomists) don’t know to cite the ‘usage’ sensu Rich.

  3. Great blog and I agree with all of the faults you point out with the current use of names. Nevertheless, I don’t know how applying a GUID to a taxon concept will help. Who decides what that GUID refers to? What stops these concepts boardening and becoming a ‘Folksonomy’?

    Regarding the problem of automated information retrieval you conclude in an unrelated paper “It is up to the consuming application to decide, in their terms of reference….” ( Likewise, it is up to the users of taxonomic information what information is relevent.

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