NATURE to save taxonomy!

John R. Grehan jrg13 at PSU.EDU
Fri Jun 7 11:52:17 CDT 2002

Taxonomy does not exist in a vacuum and taxonomies inform and guide the rest
of biology (that's quite a responsibility, and it demands that work is
available and as accurate as possible). If biologists specializing in other
fields are unable to access current, and accurate taxonomies, taxonomic work
is of no use (for all practical purposes, _USELESS_).

HTML. What is it about them that makes some people reluctant to use them?

Eric Dunbar

I find myself in complete agreement with the above sentiments. As a
biogeographer I am continually frustrated by the time and effort required
to scan current literature to find useful taxonomic and systematic works
for biogeographic analysis. There has to be a lot of good stuff out there,
but finding it is another matter. Even with electronic searches its a bit
hit and miss. Ironically I have sometimes been able to find information on
sources in the web more effectively than something like Biosis (Biological
Abstracts). Taxonomists who are making the effort to post web pages on
taxonomic groups should be congratulated. When I was writing the Galapagos
paper I recall one of the most helpful of such sources was Platnick's world
coverage of spider taxa and their distributions. Wonderful work! I think
efforts such as these are currently more useful and effective at least for
me) than all the fancy 'informatics' one hears about all the time in Nature
and Science. In the 'old days' I was fortunate to be in a library where
there was an extremely good coverage of journals and it was possible each
month to simply scan the pages. Now I am at a typical library that is
undergoing a policy of continual attrition that cannot be compensated by
electronic searches. The latter are perfect for the specialist, but not for
the generalist. It almost seems that in the modern information age' we are
actually facing a form of information illiteracy.


John Grehan
Frost Entomological Museum
Pennsylvania State University
Department of Entomology
501 ASI Building
University Park, PA 16802. USA.

Phone: (814) 863-2865
Fax: (814) 865-3048

Frost Museum

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