[SEEK-Taxon] Assertions

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Fri Aug 13 17:12:52 PDT 2004

Hi Nico,

Yes, I agree that "Assertion" is excessively ambiguous in both contexts
(Taxonomer & TCS).  If I had been smarter when drafting the Taxonomer MS, I
would have chosen something more explicit, like "TaxonNameStatusAssertion",
or picked something that had already been defined (like "Potential
Taxon") -- but there's always a risk in using an existing term in a slightly
different way.

I am perfectly happy to change the term in Taxonomer -- not just to avoid
conflict with TCS, but to come up with something more explicit.  But I worry
that doing so at this point might lead to more confusion.

The more immediate concern for me is that I plan to give a presentation at
TDWG in October describing Taxonomer, and I don't want to create confusion
with discussions about the TCS by using the same word with different


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Nico Franz [mailto:franz at nceas.ucsb.edu]
> Sent: Friday, August 13, 2004 6:47 AM
> To: Richard Pyle; seek-taxon at ecoinformatics.org
> Subject: Re: [SEEK-Taxon] Assertions
> 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".
> Cheers,
> Nico
> 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
> >easier.
> >
> >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.
> >
> >Aloha,
> >Rich
> >
> >
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