[SEEK-Taxon] Assertions

Nico Franz franz at nceas.ucsb.edu
Fri Aug 13 09:47:12 PDT 2004

Hi Rich:

    it's fascinating how we can sometimes understand each other using 
ambiguous, uninformative, or even "wrong" terms. I agree with you that the 
TOC's use of the term "assertion" pays little respect to your previous work 
on Taxonomer. Just as importantly, I find the term rather uninformative, 
when more informative choices were clearly available. The TOC's use of 
"assertion" is meant to denote the establishment of a RELATIONSHIP among 
(minimally) two concepts, although you wouldn't know that from its 
name."Third-party assertion" helps a bit, but still misses the main point I 
think. People also sometimes call these relationship assessments "concept 
synonymies", which is equally unfortunate, because "nym" means name, not 
concept. What I could further read into "assertion" is that since one 
"merely asserts something", the "assertion" is not quite on the same 
intellectual level as a "real concept". I'm clearly pushing it here, but 
that's what *I*, *now*, read between the lines.

    So in sum, the TOC's use of "assertion" violates some sense of priority 
(causing confusion), is unnecessarily uninformative as to what "assertions" 
are, and possibly even labels them as something less scientific, less 
reliable. I would like us to change all these potential implications by 
calling them what they are: CONCEPT RELATIONSHIPS, or links, or 
connections, edges in graph theory I believe. So then one could author 
either a concept or a relationship, and be as assertive as one wants to 
be.  ;-)

    That said, I think that when you're in the process of developing both 
an application and a terminology, some temporary mismatches are bound to 
happen, and sometimes don't matter all that much. In our conference calls 
we've had some success talking about "AtomicTaxa", when those are really 
concepts without relationships to others in their definition. So let's see 
where the dice fall with "assertions".



At 04:06 PM 8/12/2004 -1000, Richard Pyle wrote:

>Greetings all,
>I'm sorry I missed the last conference call -- I was up late the night
>before, and a stampede of elephants in my bedroom (much less my alarm clock)
>wouldn't have gotten me out of bet that early.....
>I've seen the emails RE the proposed TDWG transfer schema, but haven't yet
>had a chance to study them in detail.  However, James Ytow just pointed out
>to me that it includes the term "Assertion", but defined differently from
>how it is defined in the Taxonomer data model
>(http://www.phyloinformatics.org/pdf/1.pdf) -- where it is the core central
>element of the taxonomic model.  In Taxonomer, the "Assertion" instance is
>the intersection of a Name and a Reference -- an assertion about the
>nomenclatural status of a name, and a "handle" to the implied concept.  In
>the proposed transfer schema, it is used as a 3rd-party assertion about the
>relationships between two concepts.  In other words, in Taxonomer it
>represents a handle to a concept, whereas in the transfer schema it is used
>for a mapping between two existing concepts.
>My concern is that discussions about these data models and schemas are
>already confusing enough with such homonymous words as "class", "concept",
>"reference", etc. -- that we probably want to avoid further confusion by
>creating new homonyms.  I'm not possesive of the term "Assertion" -- I've
>often thought that I probably should have used "PotentialTaxon" or
>"PotentialConcept" or "NameReference" or something else a little more
>explicit, and I wouldn't mind changing it in my model.  Unfortunately, I've
>already published it as "Assertion", and it's hard for me to retract that
>definition now.
>Does anyone else have similar concerns? As I said, I'd sooner change the
>term I use in the Taxonomer model to something else, than be faced with
>speaking of "Assertion sensu Taxonomer" vs. "Assertion sensu TOC", etc. --
>so if "Assertion" is really the best term in the TOC context, I'll do
>whatever I can to retract my use of "Assertion" in Taxonomer.  Or, if
>another term can be used in the TOC context, that would make my life a bit
>I've got a very busy week ahead of me, so I'm not sure how much time I'll
>have to digest the TCS documentation -- but as soon as I get a chance, I'll
>go over it in detail and provide any feedback I might have.
>seek-taxon mailing list
>seek-taxon at ecoinformatics.org

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