What are we going to do about this?

Curtis Clark jcclark at CSUPOMONA.EDU
Thu Oct 24 21:32:53 CDT 1996

At 11:54 AM 10/24/96 -0400, Alan Harvey wrote:
>Well, yeah, that was the (tired) idealist in me ranting yesterday. The
>pragmatist, however, holds no "Ozian" illusion that taxonomy can find its
>salvation in the largess of corporations or other institutions in which
>chronically urgent deadlines and the "bottom line" conspire to generate the
>Pareto Principle, namely that "80% of the outcome (of a decision) can be
>made with 20% of the facts." For the taxonomist, this might mean that if
>the typical biotic inventory, or "best available taxonomy," correctly
>include, say, 20% of the taxa actually present (the remaining taxa missing
>through errors of omission, misidentification or nomenclature), it will be
>hard to generate much additional interest or support from such agencies.

But of course 100% of the taxa is still 20% (or less) of the facts, when
little is known about the biology behind the names. So 20% of the names is
only 4% of the facts, which even with best interpretation of the Pareto
Principle gives us onlt 16% of the outcome. The "bottom line" in this case
is of course that many of these inventories are worse than useless.

Curtis Clark                       http://www.is.csupomona.edu/~jcclark/
Biological Sciences Department                     Voice: (909) 869-4062
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona    FAX:   (909) 869-4396
Pomona CA 91768-4032  USA                          jcclark at csupomona.edu

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