DELTA home Dallwitz, M.J. 2008 onwards. Guidelines for using data taken from Web publications.

Guidelines for using data taken from Web publications

7 June 2016

M. J. Dallwitz

1. Cite the source of the data properly. It’s sometimes difficult to know how to do this with Web publications, but of course the URL should be cited, and, if possible, the authors, publication date, and title.

(All of the datasets at contain citation information at the bottom of almost every page, e.g.

Cite this publication as: ‘Watson, L., and Dallwitz, M.J. 1992 onwards. The families of flowering plants: descriptions, illustrations, identification, and information retrieval. Version: 1st June 2007.’.

The methodological papers contain citation information at the top, e.g

Dallwitz, M.J., Paine, T.A., and Zurcher, E.J. 2002 onwards. Interactive identification using the Internet.

2. If you are republishing a substantial part of a dataset, notify the original authors. This is not only courteous, but it gives them a chance to suggest improvements for your publication.

3. If you intend only to make corrections or minor improvements, try asking the original authors to make them. They will usually be grateful for the feedback, and it will be less trouble for you.

4. Don’t simply copy the publication elsewhere. If you want to make it easily available in your organization, use a link to the original publication. If you really need a local copy of the publication, e.g. for more efficient access in your organization, then make sure that the copy is kept up to date, or flag the pages so that they are not scanned by search engines.

5. Ask the authors for the original data. Don’t try to extract data from Web pages or keys derived from the original data, unless you’re sure that the results will be the same.

(For example, although Intkey can produced a character list and taxon descriptions in DELTA format, some information available in the original DELTA descriptions will be lost, e.g. comments and the distinction between ‘and’ and ‘or’. Character dependencies, which are essential for the correct interpretation of the data, can only be regenerated with difficulty.)

6. Before ‘improving’ the original publication, make sure that you understand the reasons behind its design (if necessary, ask the authors), or you may actually make things worse.

7. Check your publication against the original. For an interactive key (even if modified), this is easily done by entering attributes at random and comparing the results. By publishing a garbled copy, you may damage not only your own reputation, but the reputations of the original authors, as users may not know who is responsible for the errors.

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