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A standardized Reference Data Set for Vertebrate Taxon Name Resolution
Zermoglio, P.F.; Guralnick, R.P.; Wieczorek, J.R. (2016). A standardized Reference Data Set for Vertebrate Taxon Name Resolution. PLoS One 11(1): e0146894. hdl.handle.net/10.1371/journal.pone.0146894
In: PLoS One. Public Library of Science: San Francisco. ISSN 1932-6203, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Zermoglio, P.F.
  • Guralnick, R.P.
  • Wieczorek, J.R.

Abstract
    Taxonomic names associated with digitized biocollections labels have flooded into repositories such as GBIF, iDigBio and VertNet. The names on these labels are often misspelled, out of date, or present other problems, as they were often captured only once during accessioning of specimens, or have a history of label changes without clear provenance. Before records are reliably usable in research, it is critical that these issues be addressed. However, still missing is an assessment of the scope of the problem, the effort needed to solve it, and a way to improve effectiveness of tools developed to aid the process. We present a carefully humanvetted analysis of 1000 verbatim scientific names taken at random from those published via the data aggregator VertNet, providing the first rigorously reviewed, reference validation data set. In addition to characterizing formatting problems, human vetting focused on detecting misspelling, synonymy, and the incorrect use of Darwin Core. Our results reveal a sobering view of the challenge ahead, as less than 47%of name strings were found to be currently valid. More optimistically, nearly 97%of name combinations could be resolved to a currently valid name, suggesting that computer-aided approaches may provide feasible means to improve digitized content. Finally, we associated names back to biocollections records and fit logistic models to test potential drivers of issues. A set of candidate variables (geographic region, year collected, higher-level clade, and the institutional digitally accessible data volume) and their 2-way interactions all predict the probability of records having taxon name issues, based on model selection approaches.We strongly encourage further experiments to use this reference data set as a means to compare automated or computer-aided taxon name tools for their ability to resolve and improve the existing wealth of legacy data.

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