IPNI The International Plant Names Index

The Contributions Mechanism

One of the main requirements for the International Plant Names Index when it was first mooted was that alterations and additions to the database be immediately visible to all users in order to prevent delay while an amendment was waiting to be approved. At the same time, it was required that the index be an authoritative source of plant names and associated information. Reconciling these two apparently contradictory goals led to the development of the contributions mechanism, whereby all contributions to the database are recorded individually and held until editors can approve or reject them.

New names, or amendments to existing names records are visible to those querying the database but flagged as 'pending' so that the user is aware that they do not yet carry the stamp of editorial approval. Once the editor has reviewed the contribution it is flagged as 'approved' and the update made to the database, however the contribution is not lost, and nor is the original state of the record before the amendment was made (in the case of an amended record). Thus it would be possible to trace back the entire history of the record from its first appearance in the database and see exactly who has had a hand in recording it. If a contribution is rejected, it is not lost either, and the rejected contributions can also be viewed, preventing the repetition of plausible errors. Editors must always supply a reason when rejecting a contribution.

How does it work?

It works by analogy to CVS. Certain objects (NameCitations, Publications, Authors, Ranks) are implemented as versionable. Whenever a change is made to one of those objects, or its dependent tables, it is given a new version number, and the differences between the original object and its edited version are listed in a Contribution Object. If the user making the change has a particular status, the new version appears immediately to all users searching the database – for less established users the changes will not show until they have been approved by an editor. The fact that the record has been changed will be flagged by the appearance of an asterisk next to the record. Similarly, if a new versionable object is added, it will be given a version number of 1.1 and the entire details of the new object will be listed in the Contribution. These records will also be flagged by an asterisk.

All of the contributions are reviewed by the editors. Regardless of the status of the user, they can accept, reject or query (pending further research). If the contribution is rejected the changes will be rolled back using the information in the contribution object to restore the database to its previous condition. If it is accepted, then the asterisk flagging the record will disappear, or the update will be made visible, and the change will be seamlessly included.

This latest release of IPNI shows contributions are outstanding on a record (by means of an asterisk) but it doesn’t yet allow you to see details of those contributions.


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