data release

Anita Cholewa anita at MOZART.CBS.UMN.EDU
Wed Dec 4 09:56:50 CST 1996

The recent comments regarding dissemination of data, particularly
with respect to rare plants, touches on an issue with which I have
been grappling for a long time.  It is true that there are some
people who have no scrupples and are the type who prefer that they
have something rare/unusual and not others.  However, how do we
decide who is such a person?  I'm hearing in this discussion and
in past discussions with others, that anyone who is not a "researcher"
should not get the details.  Others have said that gardeners should
not get the info.  This kind of categorization smacks of elitism
and says that everyone (except researchers) is guilty unless proven
otherwise.  I know a lot of gardener types who are extremely
ethical and thus are unfairly painted by such attitudes.  On the
other hand I know some researchers who are not ethical at all and
yet would be assumed (under this line of thinking) to be of good
botanical morals.  A related issue with such thinking is who is
to decide who should be given access to the data.  Are the curators
of collections the decision makeres?  Government agency personnel?
Heritage Program people?  I know of one instance where a researcher
was denied collecting permits because the permit granting agency
didn't think the researcher had a good enough reason for wanting
the permit.  Also there's the issue of the Freedom of Information
Act--if pressed the data would have to be given out.  We live in a
free society (at least for now) but that means that the bad comes
with the good; we can't make people do the right thing.  Bottom line
is this problem is not an easy one to solve.
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