Thursday, May 20, 2010

NCBI Taxonomy IDs and Wikipedia


I've written a note on the Wikipedia Taxobox page making the case for adding NCBI taxonomy IDs to the standard Taxobox used to summarise information about a taxon. Here is what I wrote:

Wikipedia's taxon pages have a huge web presence (see my blog post Google and Wikipedia revisited and Page, R. D. M. (2010). "Wikipedia as an encyclopaedia of life". Nature Precedings hdl:10101/npre.2010.4242.1). If a taxon is in Wikipedia it is almost always the first search result in Google. Researchers in other areas of biology are making use of a Wikipedia as a tool to annotate genes Gene Wiki and RNA families Wikipedia:WikiProject_RNA, respectively. Pages for genes, such as Cytochrome_b, have numerous external identifiers in their equivalent of the Taxobox (the Pfam_box). I think we are missing a huge opportunity by not including NCBI taxonomy ids. The advantages would be:

  • It would provide a valuable service to Wikipedia readers by enabling them to go to NCBI to discover more about a taxon

  • It would help Wikipedia contributors by providing a standardised way to refer to NCBI (and enable bots to add missing NCBI taxonomy ids). Putting them in an External links section makes it harder to be consistent (there are various ways to write a URL linking to the NCBI taxonomy)

  • It would facilitate linking from NCBI to Wikipedia. A mapping of Wikipedia pages to NCBI taxonomy ids could be added to NCBI Linkout, generating more traffic to the Wikipedia pages

  • Projects that are trying to integrate information from different sources would be able to combine information of genomics from NCBI with other information much more readily

Note that I am not arguing that Wikipedia should "follow" NCBI taxonomy, merely that where the potential to link exists, the links would create value, both within and outside the Wikipedia community.

Some discussion has ensued on the Taxobox page, all positive. I'm blogging this here to encourage anyone who as any more thoughts on the matter to contribute to the discussion.