[Taxacom] Economist leader addressed to taxonomists

David Patterson dpatterson at mbl.edu
Fri May 18 07:43:37 CDT 2007


I agree with Rod as to the tone of a response - and I do 
believe one should be written.  Would Rod be willing to 
write a first draft?

I would add two points.

The EOL is a major taxonomic initiative that has the 
capacity to accelerate consensus, and therefore 
consistency, stability, and discovery. This is the mature 
response to the concerns of the 'what is a species' issue.

The response to EOL has been stunning, we have received 
tens of thousands of positive enquiries, which gives us 
another argument - that some of the comments in the 
Economist grossly fail to represent prevailing opinions 
and so are disengenuous.

The manipulative aspects of some of the points in the 
Economist takes me back to Donat's mailing some time ago 
of the pit bull - which I suspect has now become a real 

David Patterson

On Fri, 18 May 2007 10:15:23 +0100
  Roderic Page <r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk> wrote:
> So, once again taxonomist's heckles are raised, and the 
>response is  
> "they don't understand how important we are!", "we don't 
>have enough  
> money!", etc.
> Is this the best way to respond, especially to this 
>audience (leaving  
> aside the issue of whether the article was justified or 
> Why not think about responding in terms the audience 
> appreciate? I wonder, for example, whether there are 
> between biologists making bad decisions based on 
> relationships between organisms, and business failing 
>because their  
> supposedly homogeneous target market of, say, 
>"teenagers", turned out  
> to be highly heterogeneous (niche marketing, anyone?).
> One could even draw parallels with recent foreign policy 
> based an appalling lack of understanding that "muslims" 
>are not a  
> homogeneous category.
> Complaining about money is a bit of a hard sell, given 
>that EoL has  
> been launched to such fanfare. Yes, I know it's not 
>money for people  
> in the trenches, but to have major charities committing 
>money, flashy  
> videos, and $US 100,000 promotion campaign (albeit "in 
>kind"), and   
> don't you think Economist readers will wonder what 
>taxonomists are  
> complaining about...
> Regards
> Rod
> On 18 May 2007, at 09:35, Maarten Christenhusz wrote:
>> Dear all,
>> In reactoin to this article in the Economist, I think we 
>>would do  
>> well to write a counter article from a variety of 
>>taxonomic fields  
>> (both plants and animals, macro and micro organisms) to 
>>explain to  
>> the Economist how important taxonomy is, what the 
>>differences are  
>> from systematics and conservation biology, that taxonomy 
>>is the  
>> basis of all biological studies, and that we are heavily 
>> underfunded, probably because the discipline is heavily 
>> misunderstood by the wider public. I would be very 
>>willing to  
>> participate in this, but as a vascular plant scientist, 
>> knowledge on primates and the microbial world is 
>>limited. Shall we  
>> write a counter article on taxonomy to the Economist? 
>>Who's with me?
>> Maarten Christenhusz
>> Dept. of Biology, sect. Biodiversity
>> University of Turku
>> 20014 Turku
>> Finland
>> www.botanyphotos.net
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: Barry Roth <barry_roth at yahoo.com>
>> Date: Friday, May 18, 2007 7:34 am
>> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Economist leader addressed to 
>>> Thank you for the cheering example of a much better 
>>> article -- including the revelation that Prof. Daniel 
>>>Brooks makes
>>> phenetic ("magnitude of difference") judgments regarding 
>>>the rank
>>> of taxa he deals with.
>>>  Barry Roth
>>> "Frederick W. Schueler" <bckcdb at istar.ca> wrote:
>>> * well, here's a less ignorant take from a mainstream 
>>> Subject: Press: The Trouble With Taxonomy
>>> Date: Mon, 14 May 2007 10:27:11 -0400
>>> From:
>>> To:
>>> ---------------------------------
>>> Get your own web address.
>>> Have a HUGE year through Yahoo! Small Business.
>>> _______________________________________________
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> ----------------------------------------
> Professor Roderic D. M. Page
> Editor, Systematic Biology
> Graham Kerr Building
> University of Glasgow
> Glasgow G12 8QP
> United Kingdom
> Phone: +44 141 330 4778
>Fax: +44 141 330 2792
> email: r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk
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David J Patterson
Encyclopedia of Life
Marine Biological Laboratory
Woods Hole
Massachusetts 02543

Phone: 1 508 289 7260
FAX: 508-457-4727


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