barcodes again (was Re: Museum Acronyms)

Doug Yanega dyanega at POP.UCR.EDU
Wed Jul 24 15:45:56 CDT 2002

>And, Doug, it may take longer to initiate a system,
>that is, to code in all the information,
>but would it be quicker and faster for a new person
>coming on line to either find the specimen or
>retrieve the data ONCE THEY ARE IN THERE?

You misunderstood. I'm not arguing about the utility of unique ID
labels. What I was saying is that there's no advantage to having a
BARCODE label as opposed to just a plain old number label. Barcoding
is a white elephant, a burden, like someone who lives in a city
buying a giant SUV that gets 10 miles to the gallon and doesn't quite
fit in the garage. However, having unique specimen numbers is, I
maintain, a goal we should all be shooting for, for the above and
many other reasons.

The practical reality, of course, is that with a backlog of 3 million
specimens and zero full-time curatorial assistants, I struggle just
to keep up with incoming new material and outgoing loans (roughly
10-20K specimens databased per year); I don't foresee ever getting
the money to put labels on the entire backlog, and I wouldn't even
*consider* using barcodes should I ever *get* the money. It's such a
waste, in fact, that were I on an NSF review panel, I wouldn't
recommend any proposals for projects that insisted on barcoding.

If we want a high-tech solution that actually saves time, then we
should be looking into microchip transponders; supposedly one could
take a drawer containing 1000 insect specimens, point the scanner at
the unopened drawer, and get back all 1000 specimen numbers in a
single click. THAT would be efficient.


Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California - Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521
phone: (909) 787-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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