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Month: August 2009

My part in GBIF’s Role in Persistent Resolvable Identifiers

mermaidLast week I took part in a meeting at GBIF in Copenhagen to discuss the role GBIF could play in  Persistent Resolvable Identifiers (the technology formally known as GUIDs and often confused with UUIDs. Perhaps they should be called PRIs – pronounced ‘prize’ – just kidding.) This is the culmination of the LGTG (a.k.a. the Less Than Greater Than group). Thanks are due to Éamonn O Tauma and the team at the GBIF Secretariat for being wonderful hosts and to my fellow participants for being such good company.

This was a two and half day meeting that involved a group of us working on a document full of recommendations (to be published in the next month or so). As part of my contribution I came up with a slightly more detailed plan for how GBIF would interact with data suppliers and consumers. For a brief time this formed part of the final document but was then cut because it was too detailed. It may still make it back into the appendix but may also drop out completely so I thought I would present it here for posterity.

These are more or less just a series of notes and diagrams but they should be understandable to anyone involved in the field. I use the term GUID as this was before we changed to calling them persistent identifiers.

Note that what I present here is what I presented to the group and does not necessarily reflect the views of the group which will officially be published later.

KAP – Another photographic box ticked

Cwm yr Eglwys - Wind too strong.

You may not have heard of it but Kite Aerial Photography is quite a widespread hobby. It involves strapping a camera to a kite and flying it over something interesting. The camera can be fired remotely or just on a timer. Serious people build complex radio control rigs to move the camera around and point it in different directions.

Doing silly things with cameras appeals to me so, when I realized that my older compact digital camera (a Nikon Coolpix S1) had a feature to fire a shot every 30 seconds, I just had to give it a go. I built a rig using the Picavet suspension system. Bought a large kite for £30 and took it on holiday to West Wales. The result was terrifying!

Calling Time on Biological Nomenclature

Gathering Storm
Gathering Storm

I was writing a report on the role of nomenclators in PESI when I realized that (with a little tweaking and injection of dangerous opinions) one section would make a good blog post.

In order to facilitate the accurate exchange of taxonomic information, both within the taxonomic community and more widely in the biological and environmental sciences, the e-infrastructure needs to provide  two dictionary functions for scientific names of organisms i.e.

  1. A recognized list of the names used. To establish that any two studies are actually using the same names whilst accounting for spelling variants and homonyms as well as to facilitate consistency in spelling and presentation.
  2. A mapping between the names and descriptions of the taxa they are used for. To establish that any two studies are using the names in the same sense or compatible senses.

If the ICBN and ICZN codes required all names to be registered in a single or limited number of places then this would effectively fulfil the first function. Unfortunately neither the ICBN or ICZN codes require names to be registered. Neither do they require names to be published in a particular list of journals. They merely set out the conditions for effective publication. The  publications in which new names appear could be published anywhere and deposited in any library. There is no requirement for them to be peer reviewed.