Hiding information

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There are two reasons we sometimes want to hide information contained in species file databases. First, sometimes there is unpublished information that must be hidden until the publication is issued. Second, as part of software development and debugging, programmers often find it useful to experiment with the actual database but using artificial data not seen by unauthorized person. The following discussion deals only with the former reason.

Data can be hidden when it is located in a table that contains column AccessCode. Tables for taxa, supplemental taxon information, references, specimens, images, sound recordings, ecological relationships, and keys contain this column. Values placed in column AccessCode have the following meanings:

  • 0, open to the public
  • 1, open to anyone who has editing access
  • 2, open to anyone who has administrative access
  • > 2 "custom access codes," open to a specific list of authorized persons (a separate list for each code number)

The team devoloping Species File Software is attempting to add features in Species File Software that will make it attractive for authors to utilize species files while the original research is in progress. This will obviously not work unless such changes can be hidden from the public. Advantages to authors include a ready starting point that contains information already in the species file, the extensive set of software checks to prevent violations of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, the ability to organize and record specimen records including past literature mention of those specimens, assistance in producing distribution maps, a means to produce interactive keys for the internet, and a good way to prevent loss of knowledge if the author is unable to complete the project with a publication. From the viewpoint of those who maintain the species file, there can be a major reduction in both the work required to enter the data and in the time lag between publication and when the data becomes visible in the species file.

An author who wants to utilize access codes must choose one of two alternatives. The simple alternative is to use a custom code within the regular species file. If the author requests a custom code and provides a list of persons to be authorized, the custodian of the species file can set it up. The simple alternative works well provided the only change in the taxonomic hierarchy is the addition of new taxa. If the work requires changes in the hierarchy (including, for example, addition of subgenera in a genus that previously had none), then the more complex alternative is required. A private species file can be generated with a taxonomic scope appropriate for the planned research. When the work is published, the private species file will be merged back into the public species file.

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