The future of taxonomic expertise in Europe

Stephan Helfer S.Helfer at RBGE.ORG.UK
Wed Feb 2 10:15:26 CST 2000

Dear Professor Enghoff, TAXACOMers

The initiative you posted in TAXACOM to promote the education of
young taxonomists is laudable indeed. However, in my opinion the
recruitment problem for young taxonomists does not start at the post-
doctoral level. Very little plant taxonomy is taught in British
(and I suspect other European) Universities at under-graduate level,
and the number of taught post-graduate courses can be counted on one
hand. I guess the situation is not very different in zoology. One of
the botany courses in Britain is the Edinburgh MSc/Diploma course in
"The Biodiversity and Taxonomy of Plants"
( Recruiting problems for these
courses are not normally caused by lack of interest, insufficient
qualification or poor job prospects, but plainly by the lack of
funding for prospective students. For last year's twelve places, the
course in Edinburgh registered applications from ca. 25 well
qualified students (including around ten from overseas), only seven
of whom could afford to start the course. In previous years the
situation was similar. I understand that a similar course at Reading
University encounters the same problems.

I therefore suggest that CETAF, and others concerned about the future
of taxonomy, should consider to increase support for education and
training in taxonomy at graduate level, whilst continuing to
encourage post-doctoral fellowships.

Dr Stephan Helfer, SSO
Senior Mycologist - MSc Course Director

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Inverleith Row, EDINBURGH EH3 5LR,
Scotland UK

phone: +44 (0)131 248 2865 (direct digital line)
fax:   +44 (0)131 248 2901

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