February 2-3, 2003 Lister Hill Center, NLM, NIH Campus, Bethesda, Maryland

Workshop on Data Management for Molecular and Cell Biology

George Garrity will be present to discuss the white paper, “Future-proofing biological nomenclature”.

The disjunction of nomenclature and taxonomy results in an accumulation of names of dubious value in the literature and databases. While systematic biologists may be adept at recognizing such problems, most others (including the curators of some databases) are not.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that biological names do not meet the requirements of a good identifier, in strict computing terms. A good identifier should be unique and persistent. As new data become available, the inferred relationships among the named entities may change: a taxon may be promoted or demoted, new taxa may be interposed between formerly contiguous taxa. As a result, the association of names with taxonomic concepts tends to weaken as the rate at which gene sequencing accelerates. Failure to address this problem will result in increasingly unpredictable responses when biological names are used to query either the literature or databases. What is required is a resolution system that can handle the complex relationships between biological names and the entities they denote and provide links to both the historical and current definition of each named taxon.

We believe that an implementation of the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) may provide the most robust and future-proof solution to this problem. A DOI is a unique, persistent identifier of an information resource that is registered together with a URL. Its purpose is the management and retrieval of that resource in the networked environment. In practice, most current DOIs identify journal articles, but DOIs are now being applied to trade publications, stock photography, and physicochemical data sets.

[permalink] Posted February 2, 2003.

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