A relatively short review of the timely conference “The Meaning of Names: Naming Diversity in the 21st Century”, held on September 30 to October 2nd, 2014, and organized by Rob Guralnick and the University of Colorado at Boulder Museum of Natural History.
Having had an opportunity to present for 30 minutes allowed me to review some general ideas about names and concepts and apparently (given positive reactions) made the presentation more accessible. A number of engaging and thematically diverse presentations were in the line-up, although the diversity of domains of application did not necessarily mean immediate directional friction. Names – the “right ones” – remain essential to information transmission that employs human cognition and memorization. Among other fleeting observations, it seemed clear to me that the standard OBO Foundry approach to fixating the meaning of terms is not all that biodiversity informatics needs to integrate taxonomically annotated data. I also think we are at the cusp of separating more clearly and consistently what conventional taxonomic names can achieve for human communication, and what they need to achieve in addition to support scalable computational integration. Two Global Names Architecture presentations (Ellinor Michel and David Patterson, respectively) pointed that way. To what extent the “additional layer” for logic integration is needed, and justified by apparent representational and infrastructural costs, was an underlying theme of the conference. In other words – progress.