[Esip-preserve] Identifiers for people?

Bruce Barkstrom brbarkstrom at gmail.com
Wed Mar 7 16:21:22 EST 2012

Hmm!  Maybe journals should require authors to have
RFID chips embedded in author's skulls.  Of course,
that doesn't help with the authors of the existing scientific
corpora (which I'll admit sounds a bit ghoulish - the corpora
perhaps representing the dead bodies of thoughts from
previous authors).

The librarians might provide thoughts about this issue,
since catalogers have had to deal with it for a very
long time.  It may be that any author cataloging system
will have to create a list of potential alternative names
for each author.  [As a semi-serious example, what do
the librarians do if "William Shakespeare" is really "Sir
Francis Bacon"?  In composers or music performers,
there's also the case of the individual who first created
"Switched On Bach" as William Carlos Williams and later
made synthesizer recordings as Wendy Williams.]

You might also check on nominalism, which my unabridged
dictionary says comes from medieval philosophy and is
the doctrine that general or abstract words [like author
names] do not stand for objectively existing entities and
that universals [maybe including URI's] are no more than
names assigned to [universals].  I'm inclined to open a
resident chapter of The Nominalist Association as a refuge
from universals.

Bruce B.

On Wed, Mar 7, 2012 at 11:59 AM, Curt Tilmes <Curt.Tilmes at nasa.gov> wrote:
> A bunch of other groups have assigned various sets of identifiers for
> most of the other things I'm looking at (Thank you GCMD keywords:
> http://gcmd.nasa.gov/Resources/valids/archives/keyword_list.html)
> Most of the databases I see seem to ignore the need to unambiguously
> identify people.
> Most databases simply fall back on a plain text literal and identify
> an author as "John Doe" (or even "J. Doe").
> I want to indicate that "John Doe" the P.I. for an instrument is the
> same "John Doe" who authored some paper.  I need a clear, unambiguous
> identifier for that person.
> I could simply assign an integer as I insert into my database (I know,
> I know -- I am not a number, I am a free man!).  Another thought is
> UUID, even though they are big and ugly and make even bigger and
> uglier URIs.
> foaf:mbox_sha1sum [1] has a certain appeal since independent databases
> have a prayer of independently assigning the same identifier to the
> same person, but even that relies on jdoe at nasa.gov keeping the same
> mbox_sha1sum associated with himself when he becomes johnd at noaa.gov.
> Keeping the name itself in the URI is nice since you can look at it
> and know who it is talking about (try that with an embedded UUID), but
> what do you do when the 2nd (and 3rd) John Doe shows up?  Or if he
> becomes Jane Doe?
> Other thoughts?
> Curt
> [1] http://xmlns.com/foaf/spec/#term_mbox_sha1sum
> --
> Curt Tilmes, Ph.D.
> U.S. Global Change Research Program
> 1717 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 250
> Washington, D.C. 20006, USA
> +1 202-419-3479 (office)
> +1 443-987-6228 (cell)
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