Specimen databases

Krishtalka, Leonard krishtalka at UKANS.EDU
Mon Aug 14 08:38:38 CDT 2000

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Entomology: Namibian Museum [mailto:insects at NATMUS.CUL.NA]
> However, if
> the goal of a database is research, employment, or to access
> funding, then a
> whole different scenario would apply (-:
> I have yet to hear of one institution where comprehensive,
> retrospective
> databasing has lead to a substantial saving in personnel or
> administrative
> costs. In fact, it usually just added another financial
> burden which impact
> on more crucial expenses - a case of the tail wagging the
> dog.

Unfortunately, the two thoughts above are at cross-purposes.  The goal of
databasing collections data is not to save "personnel or administrative
costs" (although this too is an outcome when considering personnel
time/costs associated with complex data searches).  The goal of databasing
collections is precisely "research", namely, to enable massive use of the
specimens and their essential data for the biodiversity research, education
and service purposes for which those collections were originally made.
Information technology has finally allowed the collective library of life in
the world's museums and herbaria to be brought into instant currency for
science and society.  Museums and herbaria cannot afford not to take
advantage of this technology or risk having their collections and their data
have little to no impact on biodiversity policy, conservation and education.

For a longer treatment of this subject, see the current (July 2000) issue of
BioScience 50 (7): 611-617, a roundtable article "Can Natural History Museum
Capture the Future?" by yours truly and Phil Humphrey.  If I had an
electronic version of the published article I would post it for easier,
immediate access, but I don't.  It may be posted in the near future on the
ASC web site.

All of nature is perverse and will not do as I wish it.
Charles Darwin

Leonard Krishtalka
Natural History Museum & Biodiversity Research Center
Professor, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
The University of Kansas, Dyche Hall
Lawrence, KS 66045
Phone: 785/864-4540
Fax: 785/864-5335
email: krishtalka at ukans.edu

More information about the Taxacom mailing list