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_publ_author_name is not a good key for _publ_author

  • To: Distribution list of the IUCr COMCIFS Core Dictionary Maintenance Group<coredmg@iucr.org>
  • Subject: _publ_author_name is not a good key for _publ_author
  • From: James Hester <jamesrhester@gmail.com>
  • Date: Tue, 26 Mar 2019 17:28:37 +1100
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Dear Core CIF group,

The publ_author category has _publ_author.name as the category key, meaning that _publ_author.name can be used to select a unique row of the loop. However, it has been pointed out that _publ_author.name is insufficient as a key for the _publ_author loop, as some authors have the same name (there are apparently 40 entries in the COD with this feature). One way to fix this is to add a further disambiguating data name to _publ_author. The suggestion is that something like "_publ_author.id" could be defined, which would contain an arbitrary code and which would be added to the category key.  The lack of this dataname in historical CIFs can be worked around by assuming it has a constant value, and CIF curators can auto-generate it when a situation is encountered with multiple identically-named authors.

An alternative approach would be to define "_publ_author.id" as the new key of the category that can be auto-generated from each packet. While in a formal sense this makes all current CIFs non-conformant, I can't imagine that it would affect most software, which will continue to work with _publ_author.name. 

Please indicate your preference or alternative solutions. Particularly important is the perspective of software authors who may be impacted.

thanks,
James.

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