What are we going to do about this? (longish)

Andrew Whittington aew at NMS.AC.UK
Fri Oct 25 11:08:05 CDT 1996

ON Thu, 24 Oct 1996 17:44:58 -0700
Doug Yanega wrote

>        This is pretty much exactly what I have suggested several times
>before in this thread; to create a new organization run by taxonomists,
>for taxonomists.

The bane of Museums across the world seems to be an ever increasing
number of adminsitrative staff, a decreasing number of research posts and
a constantly less funding to run on.  What Doug is suggesting has also
been a topic of casual conversation amoung Scottish Dipterists of the
Malloch Society.  And it seems that this was indeed the starting point of
many of the Big National Museums.  Gradually, as academics found that
administration burdens increased, they felt a need to shed more and more
of the responsibilities - unwittingly to their own sad end!  As this
happened, admistrators grasped more and more of the power and gradually
(sometimes not so gradually) shipped the curators and taxonomists out.
We've come full circle.

Will we not just be facing the same senario again and again if we do what
Doug suggests?  There seems no easy solution.  How about spending time
convincing the admistrative staff that the purpose of a
Museum/collection/taxonomic research institute is more than for the
survival of administrative posts!  Perhaps we need to back-track to a more
stable situation - a better balance between admin and research, with a
consequential better balance of funding.  Wasn't the fall of the Roman
Empire partly from an over burden of Administrators? We've come full
circle again!

And then:
>Suppose, too, that the same organization that helped pay for your
>research asked that you give slide shows at Audubon Society or Sierra
>Club meetings or such, especially on occasions such as your taking a trip
>to a museum in another city (which they might even fund directly), and
>a local member of the organization there even helped with the
>coordination and logistics? Would you do it?

Although a good idea, my experience on these lines (and it isn't
considerable), is that the societies normally want you to talk for free
and will, at best, provide transport cover.  My funding body seldom every
pays for a trip to another Museum, let alone pay for me to talk to a
group about my work!  But to answer Doug's question of would I (or
anybody else) do it - I respond, Why not?  It isn't unethical to be paid
to give a talk is it?

Andy Whittington
National Museums of Scotland
Chambers Street
Edinburgh, EH1 1JF
DDI: 0131 247 4261
FAX:  0131 220 4819
aew at nms.ac.uk

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