LucID and Intkey

Alex R. Chapman alexc at CALM.WA.GOV.AU
Sat Mar 15 09:02:55 CET 1997


- From: Robin Wilson

> Remember that Delta is the description of a data format for taxonomic 
> databases, while Intkey is a program (one of many) that use data in 
> the Delta format. I realise that most delta-l subscribers know this, 
> but the point deserves emphasis since the "freedom of choice" that 
> David Yeates pleads for is only possible if all software developers 
> agree to support data stored in a standard format. Delta is that 
> format. I am all for freedom of choice for software using a standard 
> format, but I do not want to have to choose between different data 
> formats.

Robin makes a crucial point here. By utilising computer-aided 
descriptive taxonomic software scientists aim to streamline the 
processes of capturing, maintaining and presenting their data, so that 
they can devote most time to their scientific (rather than secretarial) 
skills. Choice of appropriate software is fundamental to any such 
project and I am sure most scientists would welcome a wider range of 
software tools to aid them in their work.

But tools that do not share common data structures or design paradigms, 
thereby requiring recoding of the data into each format, either manual 
or automated, with loss of data and meaning at each step, will be not be 
welcome to most workers.

Clearly, a functional and widely accepted data standard is essential in 
order for workers to reliably interchange electronic descriptive data 
without loss. Taxonomists have been fortunate to have such a standard 
developed, acknowledged and supported over many years. As Eric Zurcher 
said:

> One goal of the DELTA system has been to try to provide a sufficiently 
> flexible notation that the DELTA system is a sort of "superset" of 
> other major taxonomic systems. Hence by maintaining one's data in the 
> DELTA system, information can be extracted into formats suitable for 
> use by a variety of other programs with a less flexible notation. This 
> eliminates the need to maintain completely separate representations of 
> one's data for every different purpose (e.g., cladistic analysis, key 
> construction, natural language descriptions, etc.).

The LUCID software sounds very useful if one's aim is solely focussed on 
producing interactive keys. It seems to me however, that, given a robust 
non-loss DELTA-LUCID translator, most scientists with the wider aim of 
scoring and maintaining their data centrally and in the most flexible 
format will choose the DELTA system as 'home' for their data.

THEN they will have the freedom of choice to tailor and present their 
data to a particular audience in the most appropriate and usable way.

Alex R. Chapman                   Email: alexc at calm.wa.gov.au
Research Scientist            Voice/Fax: +61 9 334 0506 /0515
WA Herbarium - Department of Conservation and Land Management
Locked Bag 104 Bentley Delivery Centre Western Australia 6983



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