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Posts tagged ‘nomenclature’

Thoughts: How many concepts are we talking about

Fourth post in this sequence (here are posts 1, 2, 3, respectively). Changing gears a little. The motivation for this post is to explore the interactions of explicitly and implicitly communicated taxonomic concepts in conversations among (living, meeting) humans with comparable levels of taxonomic expertise. How many identifiers are we talking about?

The exploration has two parts. The first part simulates a brief conversation of the kind that two human speakers may engage in while meeting in the hallways at a taxonomically oriented conference. The speakers know of each other, either through prior personal interactions or (minimally) by having read several of each other’s taxonomic publications. The conversation is hypothetical, and even though certain real persons are mentioned, the sole purpose of this is to add some realism, not to pass my judgment on any taxonomic particulars. The post is about exploring how the issue of taxonomic name/concept identifier resolution relates to this kind of communication, generally.

The second part examines the conservation from the perspective of representing taxonomic reference – “logically”. By that I mean framing the taxonomic content identifiers communicated explicitly or implicitly by the human speakers in such a way that a computational, logic-based application can adequately represent them. Ok, so here goes (in part, as it will turn out).

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Thoughts: Humans, computers, and identifier granularity

Third post in this sequence. In the first post, I reviewed that biological nomenclature promotes (even requires) fairly deep taxonomic semantics, due to semantically forceful principles such as Typification, Priority, Coordination, and Binomial Names. In the second post, I suggested (again, nothing very new here) that the Linnaean system has many features which, given the task on hand (reliably identifying nature’s hierarchy), are nearly optimally aligned with evolutionarily constrained human cognitive universals.

Both posts are ultimately about advancing biodiversity informatics infrastructure design. That motivation points to finding sound models of knowledge communication in the taxonomic domain. Lessons from the two preceding posts may be as follows. (1) If the goal is to build data environments that largely continue to reflect the strengths and weaknesses of human cognitive universals, then the particular balance struck by Linnaean names and name relationships acting as identifiers of evolving human taxonomy making is adequate. (2) There may be better solutions out there, particularly solutions that more effectively utilize the reasoning and scalability strengths of computational logic.

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Thoughts: Why stability in nomenclature, and at what cost?

Another post on nomenclature, related to this previous post on the possibly thankfully strong influence of nomenclatural principles on taxonomic practice.

Many taxonomists, including myself certainly, continue to wonder and explore why exactly nomenclature is the way it is. The aim is first and foremost to obtain a sound explanatory account. Whether one likes the explanations, or the practice as illuminated in part by the explanations, is initially another subject.

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Thoughts: How taxonomically binding is biological nomenclature

Biological nomenclature and taxonomy are both different yet also somehow interconnected. It is sometimes stated that the two kinds of practices are largely independent of each other. Yet we also know that – to some degree – Code-compliant nomenclature must respond to taxonomic change. Pyle & Michel (2008) review the relationship of nomenclature and taxonomy in (what seem to me) often reiterated terms. They write (pages 41-42):

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Running list of nomenclatural acts (NMF)

A flat, running list of nomenclatural and taxonomic “novelties” I have been part of. So much more to do. In chronological order:

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BIGCB Workshop at UC Berkeley: Tackling the Taxon Concept Problem

November 7-9, 2014. Coolest workshop theme, like, ever. Organized by Brent Mishler and Staci Markos of the UC Berkeley Jepson Herbarium.

Understanding Taxon Ranges in Space and Time: Tackling the Taxon Concept Problem

A Workshop Sponsored by the Berkeley Initiative in Global Change Biology

Friday, November 7, 2014, 1002 VLSB, open to all who are interested.

1:00 pm: Brent Mishler  –  Introduction to the themes and goals of this workshop.

1:10 pm: Edward Gilbert  –  Ideas for incorporating taxonomic concepts into Symbiota.

1:40 pm: Robert Guralnick  –  Map of Life and the challenge of heterogeneous names data for determining species ranges.

2:10 pm: Gaurav Vaidya  –  Tracking taxonomic changes: how, where and why, with examples from the Avibase database of taxon concepts. Link & PDF

2:40 pm: Coffee Break.

3:00 pm: Robert Peet  –  Taxon concepts as essential infrastructure for large-scale data integration: lessons from VegBank, SEEK and BIEN. PDF

3:30 pm: Nico Franz  –  Tracking taxonomic change across classifications and phylogenies. PDF

4:00 pm: Alan Weakley  –  Applying concept maps to 7100 vascular plants of the Southeastern United States, and some thoughts on ‘atomic concepts’ and their utility at the specimen level.  PDF

4:30 pm: Nico Cellinese  –  Thoughts on the right approach to query trees based on phyloreferences (ontologized phylogenetic definitions).


Additional Workshop Notes

  • Communicated by Robert Peet  –  Taxonomic concept infrastructure-related entities requiring identifiers. PDF

2014 UC Boulder Meaning of Names Conference in Review

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.

I have uploaded the Conference Program for reference. I gave an update on Euler/X, the slides are shared again here. Some photos of the conference participants are posted on Flickr.

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.

Franz. 2014. Explaining taxonomy’s legacy to computers – how and why? from taxonbytes

Conference presentation: Explaining taxonomy’s legacy to computers – how and why?

I will give an updated presentation on the Euler/X project and concept taxonomy at the conference “The Meaning of Names: Naming Diversity in the 21st Century”, held at the Museum of Natural History, University of Colorado – Boulder, on September 29 to October 01, 2014. Slides are posted on Slideshare, and linked here. Thanks to Rob Guralnick for the invitation!

Franz. 2014. Explaining taxonomy’s legacy to computers – how and why? from taxonbytes