What are we going to do about this?

James H. Beach jbeach at NSF.GOV
Mon Oct 21 11:55:57 CDT 1996

Roger Hyam writes:

>My understanding of the problems in taxonomy are that the only way
>to carry out an alpha taxonomy is to spend some time getting it all
>in your head, do a bit of specimen shuffling, see them in the field
>and then write it all down. If you get time you can do a
>phylogenetic analysis of it as well (once everything is in nice
>little boxes that you can use as terminals). The problem is that for
>larger groups it may take longer than 3 years to get it all in your
>head. As it is rare for research grants to last for even three and a
>half years the larger groups just aren't going to be studied and the
>majority of "species" are in larger groups.
>What are we going to do about this?

I found this to be a thought provoking comment, although not a novel
concern, it is certainly one systematists should be thinking about every
day -- as the planet's biota fades out.

1. What are some truly salational steps that could be taken to accelerate
the initial biodiversity survey of the planet and the rapid development of
the initial classifications and phylogenies for incompletely studied

2. How do systematists convince society that their research problem is
relevant and thereby obtain more financial resources?

3. How does society convince systematists that they should do relevant
research and thereby feel the investment is worthwhile?

Dr. James H. Beach                                 Tel:   703 306-1470
Program Director                                   Fax:   703 306-0356
Database Activities, Room 615            E-mail: jbeach at nsf dot gov
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