[Taxacom] eol in NYT

Chris Lyal C.lyal at nhm.ac.uk
Fri Sep 7 03:41:49 CDT 2007

I don't think that any of us would argue that greater access to
information is extremely important, and will aid removal of part of the
taxonomic impediment.  I'm right alongside Paul and Rich with that.

I would argue, however, that providing the informatics framework to
enable this to happen is only part of the story, and to emphasise this
element as if it were going to solve the problem alone could really lead
to us shooting ourselves in the foot (again).  

The information that will be carried by EoL has to come from somewhere,
and it has to come with the metadata to make it useful [.e. appear (with
appropriate data scrutiny / quality statements) where the user expects
it to].  There are massive digitisation projects going on, true, but we
do need to be clear what digital information is needed to make EoL a
useful tool, and where it is going to come from....and who is going to
pay for it. The overall cost of digitising what will make EoL more than
an exciting but largely empty shell is likely to be quite considerably
more than the current funds EoL can access.  Of course some content will
come from extant initiatives, and that's fine, and more will come from
BHL, which is excellent (once the metadata issues are sorted). Some will
come from self-motivated folk who regularly compile data on a
shoestring.  However, there also have to be strategies both to
accelerate data capture and ensure that the content reaches a critical
mass that ensures that the benefits for users are cost-effective for
them to build EoL into their work practices.  

One such strategy will be to build tools that incorporate EoL data
provision and use into taxonomists' workflows (and GBIF, CoL etc - let's
invent it only once).  This idea has been developing for a while now,
and the pieces are coming together.

Overall, however, we need to make the point continually and loudly to
policy and funding bodies that information is not generated
spontaneously, and that there is a strategic need to fund and facilitate
population of systems such as EoL so they can provide the benefits they
are promising.  


Christopher H. C. Lyal
Department of Entomology
The Natural History Museum
Cromwell Road
London SW 7 5BD
tel: +44 (0)207 942 5113

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