The need for better citation of authorities of scientific names in taxonomy
CETAF/SPNHC/BHL present a paper with best practices
The story of a name is part of the name itself. So, including the implicit bibliographic citation in the authorities of taxonomic names is fundamental and should be universally done when a scientific name is cited in a publication.
This is the advice of a group of scientists belonging to the three communities of CETAF (the Consortium of the European Taxonomic Facilities), SPNHC (the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections) and BHL (Biodiversity Heritage Library) and validated by the respective executive boards.
The group is presenting a paper with best practices to follow in an effort to make taxonomic citations universally consistent, discoverable, and comparable across publications and platforms, so that they can be useful for future studies. This work comes from the experience and previous publications of the CETAF e-publishing working group which has addressed this complex issue on more than one occasion, Nonetheless, such cooperation of CETAF, BHL and SPNHC is unprecedented and has been facilitated by the BiCIKL Horizon 2020 Project.
“Leaving apart the information concerning the origin of the name, its eventual recombination, synonymy, or the possible changes in rank would deplete the very bibliographic history of the name. That’s why, with this publication, we would like to suggest a better way of citing the primary sources of a name, so we can easily track its history” - says Laurence Bénichou, from the Natural History Museum of Paris.
“We must even consider the digital side of the taxonomic classification: we are working in a world where it’s essential to include the citation of the authorship to create a citation network. Not doing this would result in the data mining returning inconsistent while incomplete results. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s the author, sometimes the publisher not including the full references, so perpetrating a loss of information” - stresses Donat Agosti, from Plazi (Switzerland) - “For whoever wants to reconstruct the full bibliographic reference that’s a big problem and waste of time because of the duplication of the effort to discover the respective citations.”
These practices, in concealing the authorship of the scientific concept to which they refer, impede and bias the results of new machine data-mining. In the digital age and the era of the semantic web, in which building a citation network by machine is one of the emerging properties, it becomes crucial to link the scientific name and its original description, both in a human and machine-actionable way. This link should resolve at least to the article, and ideally to the respective taxonomic treatments, accessible in open access, findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (FAIR) format, enabling a further, detailed accurate extraction of data, such as for traits. Ideally, it should also include links via persistent identifiers to any other biological data constituting the taxon (morphological, molecular, ethological, voucher specimens) cited. This will allow immediate access and enhanced online discovery of taxonomic information for the entire scientific community and for society at large to address biodiversity assessment and loss in the face of global challenges.
See our recommendation here,
published in Research Ideas and Outcomes, DOI: 10.3897/rio.8.e94338