Support for database maintenance

Penny, Norm npenny at CASMAIL.CALACADEMY.ORG
Mon Nov 27 08:48:55 CST 1995

          With regards to recent discussion about NSF support for
          maintaining databases, I see a growing problem here.  If
          NSF is willing to only help create the collection databases,
          then there will necessarily be a growing number of
          databases, but most will not have the money to support them.
          Experience with our Entomology Collections Database at CAS
          has shown that it is an enormous task to keep it current,
          perhaps even greater than the original data input.  For
          instance, for every insect family a certain percentage of
          the specimens will be sorted only to family level, making an
          inventory of those specimens relatively easy.  If a
          specialist works on these unsorted specimens for a week,
          literally thousands, perhaps tens of thousands can be sorted
          to a lower level of identity.  This one week's activity can
          keep a technician modifying the collection database for
               Collections are already pressed for financial support
          for technical staff to maintain the collection itself, and
          collection maintenance is a very labor intensive task.  To
          add another large component to that task - the maintenance
          of a collection database - is more than most collections can
          handle.  Accepting NSF money to create a large collection
          database thus becomes a Trojan Horse.  After it is created,
          the institution is faced with a decision to either divert
          scarse resources from traditional (and valuable) tasks, or
          let the database collapse.  The easiest solution to this
          dilemma would be to have NSF support what they have
                                         Norman D. Penny
                                         Senior Collection Manager
                                         Dept. of Entomology
                                         California Academy of Sci.
                                         NPenny at

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