Raise money, not conflict!

Peter Rauch anamaria at GARNET.BERKELEY.EDU
Sat May 8 10:13:49 CDT 1993


A report on the recent "All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory" (ATBI)
workshop, held in Philadelphia in early April, was published in SCIENCE
(AAAS), 30 April 93 issue, pages 620-622, entitled "Counting Creatures
Great and Small", by Carol Yoon.

A series of seven messages related to this workshop were posted to
Taxacom by D. Janzen and W. Hallwachs, organizers, just prior to the
meeting.

The generally informative SCIENCE report contains one note of purported
conflict --that between those (e.g., Janzen) who supposedly seek (only)
a "list of names" (of species of organisms in an intensively
inventoried area), and those who would rather provide the more useful
"predictive power of phylogenetics".

This conflict is characterized as a possible "clashing of agendas"
between programs such as ATBI's and Systematics 2000.

I find this contrast wanting in utility. And, in particular, I do not
believe that Janzen "wants his list of names" without the phylogenetic
substance underpinning them. I didn't hear him say anything remotely
like that in the workshop.

It is a sad commentary on the field of systematics to suggest that it
should not be "handmaiden" in service of our environmental crisis.
Being handmaiden does *not* imply stopping the practice of phylogenetic
(or evolutionary or any other kind of useful) systematics in order to
determine a specimen's name for someone not of the convenant.

On the contrary, it implies performing both the basic science of
systematics and the service of providing names to society  --at the
rate and in the fashion they are needed by society. This rate and need,
sadly also, is by many measures way beyond the capacity of the past,
existing, and current pipeline of future systematists.

Rather than perceiving conflict, whether it be from a self-conscious
role as handmaiden or from one arising out of an apparent competing
allocation of resources or whatever, systematists would better serve
themselves and everyone else by fighting very hard to make themselves
most needed and supported. Fight for all the resources we need to bring
systematics information to bear on our problems. No one is going to pay
systematists to do business as usual (as indeed it hasn't been funded
for the past 200 years!). And, we as a society can not afford to pay
that pittance; it's not enough --we will lose everything if we continue
to waste opportunities and effort. Get with it! Ask for what is needed
to do the job right! That's many ($20?) billions over the next 30 years
for *new* systematics initiatives, i.e., funding for an additional 2000
systematists and their support budgets. Hmmm, is that enough?

OK. I have my armor on. Throw stones.
Peter




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