The importance of species name synonyms in literature searches

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The synonyms of biological species names are shown to be an important component in comprehensive searches of electronic scientific literature databases but they are not well leveraged within the major literature databases examined. For accepted or valid species names in the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) which have synonyms in the system, and which are found in citations within PLoS, PMC, PubMed or Scopus, both the percentage of species for which citations will not be found if synonyms are not used, and the percentage increase in number of citations found by including synonyms are very often substantial. However, there is no correlation between the number of synonyms per species and the magnitude of the effect. Further, the number of citations found does not generally increase proportionally to the number of synonyms available. Users looking for literature on specific species across all of the resources investigated here are often missing large numbers of citations if they are not manually augmenting their searches with synonyms. Of course, missing citations can have serious consequences by effectively hiding critical information. Literature searches should include synonym relationships and a new web service in ITIS, with examples of how to apply it to this issue, was developed as a result of this study, and is here announced, to aide in this.




Guala, G. F. (2016). The importance of species name synonyms in literature searches. PLoS ONE, 11(9).

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