[Taxacom] encylopedia of life

Richard Zander Richard.Zander at mobot.org
Sun May 13 15:51:15 CDT 2007

David Patterson:
You have taxonomists on the Team! That's wonderful. I am willing to bet, however, that you don't have more than 100, much less one per family. Unless you are not paying them, and the buy-in involves their "spare time" as contributed by institution heads on the Team.
It's not exactly money alone that we taxonomists are grumpy about. Those who have jobs already have money. It is how university deans see biodiversity research versus, say, DNA research. One (doing EoL pages) is unfunded, the other brings in lots of indirect costs. 
The EoL as presently conceived will encourage and accelerate the loss of taxonomists at our universities. University deans would do well to hire WWW Biodiversity Project Heads because those positions seem well funded. 
"EoL is not a funding agency." It should be.
R. Zander


From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu on behalf of David Patterson
Sent: Sun 5/13/2007 1:48 PM
To: Donat Agosti; taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] encylopedia of life

As one of the EOL team, I'd like to comment on some of the
issues that have been raised.

1.  We do have active taxonomists as part of the team.

2.  EOL is intended to be a communal initiative.  Its role
is to mobilise data, present it through a common but very
flexible portal, and so serve audiences with a broad
spectrum of needs.  To make this possible, we will promote
a virtual workbench, where anyone can add to amend openly
accessible software to link, index, annotate, analyse or
visualise biodiversity information that are accessible
through the internet.  Anyone will be able to register
themselves as a data provider so that their content can be
seen through the workbench and potentially through the EOL

3.  As to whether this initiative will have more success
that some of the others, there are a number of
developments that make success considerably more probable.
 The first is that the internet itself has moved on, the
bandwidth can now accommodate biology in a way that was
not previously possible; the style of the internet has
been very interactive (and therefore makes communal
participation possible - one of two key factors that will
permit this project to scale); there have been innovations
in aggregation (mashup) which we are familiar with in
terms of Google images, but in the biological context
through web sites like iSpecies or in a more clunky form
in micro*scope many years earlier;  we have the
foundations of a global index in the form of uBio's
NameBank and CoLP has now gone beyond the half way point
in developing an authoritative filter for that index;
 there will be a fairly extensive network  that
synchronizes the major names providers; TDWG now
Biodiversity Information Standards is providing data
schemas, data transfer standards, and progress towards the
semantic web for biology; we have taxonomically
intelligent services that can overcome the 'many names for
one organism' problem that besets federation of data; we
will have access to the content of 1.500,000 biodiversity
texts through the BHL so addressing a key bottleneck in
taxonomy and therefore making EOL a tool that serves
taxonomists; the funding is appropriate to the scope of
the challenge, and we have a wonderful video (that was
provided for free by Avenue A RazorFish - illustrating
that the idea is inspiring others to help us address the

4.  This is a communal enterprise.  EOL is not a funding
agency.  It will increase visibility and relevance of
biodiversity data that is put on the web.  It will offer
to taxonomists high visibility, something that the
taxonomic community should be able to exploit in their
search for support.

5.  The teams will start to assemble in the second part of
this year.

David Patterson

eolinformatics at mbl.edu

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