Cold Spring Harbor, NY A rose by any other name would smell as sweet -- but it might confound scientists interested in understanding the chemical components of its fragrance or discovering where its ancestors grew in the wild.
That's because in biology, an organism's scientific (taxonomic) name is the key to finding information about it. This data on the genetic, ecological, and agricultural particulars of every known plant -- is held in repositories scattered all over the globe, at places as diverse as university labs, museums, and private-sector corporations. Some of the information is hidden within spreadsheets stored on the computers of individual plant scientists.
There is, in other words, lots of room for confusion resulting from multiple listings (under different names) of the same species.
Rose-for-TNRS-story-courtesy-Wikimedia-Commons Enter a web-based resource: the Taxonomic Name Resolution Service, or TNRS (tnrs.iplantcollaborative.org) . Today, the third and most complete version of TNRS to date went live on the Web, the work of computer scientists, botanists, and biologists participating in an National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded project called the iPlant Collaborative, in conjunction with Missouri Botanical Gardens and Botanical Information and Ecology Networks (BIEN).
It turns out that up to 30% of the names in major biological databases are incorrect in some way, according to TNRS scientists. Error rates that high greatly reduce confidence in the accuracy of science and limit the ability of the public and business to discover and utilize information about plants.
iPlant -- a virtual collaborative co-led by Doreen Ware, Ph.D., of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service and an Adjunct Associate Professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) has made great progress in solving the problem. The latest version of TNRS resolves plant taxonomic names -- often lists
|Contact: Peter Tarr|
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory