communication, etc.

Luis A. Ruedas usr7933a at TSO.UC.EDU
Tue May 10 15:46:36 CDT 1994


Well.  Humphries and Alonso Zarazaga certainly opened my eyes to the
economics of journal publishing.  If it is as inexpensive as

> ... with the cost of a printed page I could buy about 40 floppy
> disks 1.44 Mb.  With the cost of 10 pages I could provide a floppy
> with each copy of the journal, and include in it text or any
> database files (compressed or not).  The cost of copying these files
> would be about 1 printed page more.

then by all means go for it.  That does not >> obviate << the need to
provide it in some other form to individuals who do not have access to
electronic retrieval equipment.

It also is more than a bit galling to pass from being a mere advocate
for a somewhat more disenfranchised portion of the systematic
community (which I have tried to do) to be the "bete noire" and
antichrist of collections computerisations (nothing could be further
from the truth).  E.g., Humphries writes

> I have little sympathy for the attitude that computerization is
> somehow "bad" for these areas of endeavor.  We stand little chance
> of improving (or even maintaining) the stature of our science if we
> refuse to take advantage of the improved communication and education
> that computerization offers.

I agree wholeheartedly: there are few more pleasant museum experiences
like being able to immediately access catalogues online, rather than
to pore through stacks of index cards for the few items you need (I've
done both).

Humphries also adds

> Every major organization that has an impact or influence within our
> field, be it NSF, SA2000, or efforts of SSB, ASC, etc includes an
> increasing component of computerization for collections oriented and
> systematic research.

and

> I would suggest that it is far more likely that our colleagues in
> these countries will get Internet access before they get complete,
> up to date paper based libraries.  Electronic access to papers and
> data would *increase* availability of information in the 3rd world.

There are a number of separate issues here.  One is that yes, such
organizations include funding (and rightly so) for computer aspects of
collections, etc.  The other is the availability of electronic
resources to developping nations which was my original point.  I went
through a number of the abstracts for awards available online at the
NSF Gopher.  Those relating to computerization were for North American
collections.  Proceeding under the assumption that awards for work
carried out abroad in systematics would primarily be under the Survey
and Inventory category, I checked those awards out as well.  Keeping
in mind that only the abstracts are available online, I think that
readers might be interested in the following.

Of six recent awards, only one, the late Ben Stone's Philippine plant
inventory ($501,992) explicitly included computerization for host
country institutions.  One on Late Cretacious terrestrial vertebrates
of the Gobi Desert included incorporation of GPS data into a database
but no mention of host country electronic capabilities (in the
abstract).  An arthropod biodiversity project in Costa Rica would
incorporate the data into an already existing Biological Survey
database.  These six awards were for $16K, 425K, 103K, 326K, 502K, and
287K, but only Ben Stone's seemed to directly aid the host country (in
the abstract).  Does this mean that $500K is the magic number before
we deign provide electronic assistance to colleagues?  Remember that
probability of success often appears negatively correlated with amount
of funds requested.

It also would be well to keep in mind that it is more than merely a
matter of have computer, will travel.  I was in the Philippines for
six months each in 1992 and 1993.  I went to the two major collections
there, the National Museum, and the Museum of the University of the
Philippines at Los Banos.  Despite the fact that the NMP is in the
National Senate Building in Manila, it is typically without
electricity for 8 hours a day or more (generally starting at 0830 -
0900); other government offices (including the Department of the
Environment and Natural Resources) have it even worse, as they are not
located in "critical" buildings.  The UPLB campus often is without
electricity for days at a time.  When I wrote a proposal to carry out
work there, I had to include not only computers, but high capacity
generators to run both the computer and a large air conditioner to
maintain stable atmospheric conditions within the collections area;
the litany continues from there...  And the Philippines is relatively
well off compared to other developping nations.

> .... my real frustration, is that [...] journals don't have an
> alternative means of depositing these data in electronic form.  For
> better or worse (and, I believe, better) get used to electronic
> publication supplanting paper based versions.  I will make a
> prediction that by the end of the decade most every major scientific
> publication will have both electronic and paper based versions and
> that the paper version will be a subset of the electronic one.
> Within 10-15 years the paper based versions will start to
> dissappear.  If anything, I may be underestimating the speed of
> transition.

YES!  I will welcome that day.  (Remember however, Miguel, when you
say "we could save paper = trees!" that diskettes are made from
non-renewable fossil resources).  But let us also keep communication
lines open between industrialized and developping nations.  Maybe if
all investigators made an effort to incorporate computers (including
collections, database mgmt., communications, and word processing
software), and generators to run them, and money for gas or whatever
to run the generators, into proposals, then we truly will have
taken a step forward.

> We undertake to make our community a more accessible, standardized
> one ...

Let's work on it, for everybody...


Now, since we all agree that computerization is essential, and that we
should help other systematists catch up, could we go on to some other
topic?



Luis A. Ruedas
Thomas More College                        606/635-5816
Ohio River Biological Station              usr7933a at tso.uc.edu
Route 8, box 86, House 3
California, KY 41007-9510




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