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About the provisional GPC

Concept of the provisional checklist
"Potential Taxa" in the checklist database
System setup
Source datasets and their derivation
Technical specifications for datasets
Sponsor acknowledgements
Known bugs and programming tasks

Concept of the provisional checklist

The concept of a provisional Checklist was developed at a meeting of the IOPI Checklist Committee at the Real Jardín Botánico in Madrid, Spain, October 2, 1995.

This decision to start an initial preliminary Checklist with minimal extra funding was made in light of slow progress with the planned full Checklist and no likelihood of substantial funding being found without having some preliminary product. This initial provisional Checklist is now available on the WorldWide Web via the IOPI Home Page and serves several functions:

  • show the botanical community and other users that the Checklist is progressing
  • demonstrate to funding bodies that the Checklist is a viable project
  • enable us to test procedures for entering and botanically editing data
  • enable contributors to the Species Plantarum project to expeditiously submit data for the Checklist.

This provisional Checklist includes basic data for each species (or infraspecific taxon if present), with three levels of data present: (i) source datasets (the data shown as provided by the database owners or custodians), (ii) partly coordinated /edited entries, and (iii) fully coordinated entries.Users will access data by entering the taxon name into a query form on the screen. Initially, a version of the Checklist on disk (including a browser program) will be provided for users without WWW access (hard copy versions will also be produced).

The basic data included initially depends on what is available from each source. However, we aim ultimately to include: genus + species (+ infraspecific epithet if relevant), author, protologue bibliographic details, type details, geographic distribution, and acknowledgement of source of data. The family name is also included (given as in the published Kew list, at least initially - that list is continually being refined).

Users can access data by entering the taxon name (genus or genus* for all entered species or genus + species for a particular species) into a query form on the screen.

The preliminary Checklist started with the same three datasets as proposed for the start of the 'full' Checklist, namely those for Australia, Peru and Europe. The Casuarinaceae from the research of Karen Wilson and Dr Lawrie Johnson was added as an example of a whole family. Other datasets added or about to be added as resources permit include the Magnoliaceae dataset from Kew, PLANTS dataset for North America, the Czerepanov list for the former USSR, data from published volumes of Med-Checklist, Malpighiaceae from W. Anderson, Names in Current Use, and GRIN.

Custodians of existing datasets are invited to contact Karen Wilson to discuss inclusion of their data for wide availability. We have (limited) funding to help with computerising non-electronic datasets.

These datasets are received by Richard Pankhurst in Edinburgh or Walter Berendsohn in Berlin and are then hand edited, with funding needed to hire help to speed up this task. The 'master' Checklist is currently kept at Berlin for access via the Home Page, although this might change to facilitate access to the Checklist.

Botanical editing is being organised through the Checklist Committee's Taxonomic Resources Network working group. It is envisaged that editing responsibility will be delegated to a particular institution for a particular plant group, or done by specialists looking on-line at the Home Page or by sending specialists the relevant files by email, on disk, or as print-outs for off-line editing. The Committee is aware of the problem of the quality of botanical editing for groups in which there is no specialist, but recognizes that, realistically, varying qualities of editing in the Checklist must be accepted; the existence of the Checklist and the Species Plantarum project should prompt botanists to take more interest in relatively neglected families.

The possibility of making a disk version of the preliminary Checklist available as widely as possible (perhaps with a browser added) will be explored, but taking into account the need for permission from contributing dataset owners. This could then be used, as an alternative to the Web pages, by specialists for botanically editing the Checklist. Hard copy versions of the Checklist are also envisaged.

IOPI has not lost sight of the ultimate aim, a relational database Checklist based on the ISC data model, as set out in the Checklist Project Plan. While starting this preliminary version and adding to it when possible, IOPI continues to seek funds for the full relational database as planned. We believe that the existence of this preliminary Checklist, which can be demonstrated to potential funding agencies, will increase the appeal of the main Checklist plan.

[Karen Wilson, Convener, IOPI Checklist Committee]

"Potential Taxa" in the checklist database

The database stores and maintains source datasets in their original form. The source datasets represent a certain view of a taxon at the time of the publication of the reference cited. This taxonomic concept, represented by a scientific name and its source reference ("sec." = secundum, according to) is called a potential taxon.

The edited or partly edited record in the database represents a potential taxon which is presently considered to have a preferred status. The taxonomic editor can relate other potential taxa (source records) to that preferred view. It may for example be stated that the view of the taxon given in a specified Flora or Monograph is congruent, included, or only partly included in the preferred view. This provides a powerful tool to map information linked to such source records (e.g. descriptive information, uses, etc.) to the currently preferred view. 

For a discussion of "Potential Taxa" see the presentation to be published under Session IV, Data Structures for Taxonomic Names and Classifications (http://research.calacademy.org/taf/proceedings/Proceedings.html), or the articles in Taxon 44:207-212 (1995) and 46:283-309 (1997). 

[Walter Berendsohn, Convener, IOPI Information Systems Committee]

System setup

The system in Berlin currently consists of a database server (Dual Intel Pentium II / 300 with 2x128MB RAM and 2 x 4GB + 2 x 8GB of mirrored disk capacity) under Windows NT Server 4.0, with the database management system SQL Server 6.5. HTML pages are served to the World Wide Web using the Internet Information Server (on a separate server).

The first setup of the database, which was accessible on the WWW until May 31,1997, was implemented by Mark A. Ziegler, who also programmed the generic conversion tool for tagged field format formerly used in data import. This first GPC database was completely re-designed (May - July 1997) by Frank Wolfram, with the aim of closer adherence to the published IOPI model. The interface between SQL Server and Internet Information Server is now implemented using Microsoft Active Server Page technology.

The text on the WWW pages was written (if not cited otherwise) by Walter Berendsohn and Karen Wilson.

Sponsor acknowledgements

(Direct financial contributions.)

Data conversions were supported by grants from the New Phytologist Trust (US$1 500) and from an anonymous donor ($ 750). The former has also sustained IOPI from the start ($2 250 p.a.). Setting up the initial version of the database was supported by a grant from the International Association for Plant Taxonomy ($1 000). The implementation of the revised database version was supported by a grant from an anonymous donor ($5 000). CODATA has granted up to $5 000 p.a. for several years to assist the travel of key Checklist Committee members.

Known bugs and programming tasks

  • Status assignments flagged as doubtful or provisional are not flagged accordingly in the output for synonyms and accepted names.
  • Duplicate entries are shown where several accepted names are provided for a single synonym.

Please send us your comments.

©1996 by The International Organization for PlantInformation.
March 20, 1999