[Taxacom] only systematics

Norman I. Platnick platnick at amnh.org
Thu Feb 26 03:36:14 CST 2009

Oh, for PEET's sake.  The terms "Phylogenetic Systematics", etc., in that
table merely indicate which programs and panels a proposal was assigned to
and funded by.  If you search for PEET, for example, you will find some
funded proposals listed in that column as "Phylogenetic Systematics",
others as "Biodiversity Surveys and Inventories", still others as PEET
itself.  The most recently funded PEET award listed at the moment is
Steven Nadler's "PEET: Training the Next Generation of Nematode
Taxonomists: Applying the Tools of Modern Monography Across Free-living
and Parasitic Tylenchina" and it is listed in "Phylogenetic Systematics". 
Are we supposed to believe that because it is so listed in that column,
the project does not involve monographic, revisionary systematics?  As I
said, if there is a problem here, I don't believe it is with NSF.

> Dear All,
>      I have to disagree with Norman on whether or not this is a problem
> at NSF.  I did a search on three categories of awards.  Phylogenetic
Systematics yielded 1,642 awards, Biodiversity Surveys and Inventories
yielded 444 awards, and Evolutionary Genetics 66 awards.
>       Categorizing your project as Phylogenetic Systematics clearly
> gives you an edge over other categories.  Seems like Biodiversity and
Inventories should be the front runner given today's extinction
> problems.  Would you rather pay people to be out in the field
> discovering new species or spending a lot of time doing computer
analyses that may or may not produce reliable phylogenies?
>       And would you rather see an emphasis on living organisms, or on
> things like dinosaur fossils (which require a hugely inordinate amount
of preparation time for just a single specimen of a species already
well-documented).  Dinosaur systematics is at the very epicenter of
PhyloCode, and thus support for dinosaur systematics no doubt indirectly
encourages PhyloCode.  Think about this:  Would you rather see a several
thousand new living organisms described by a larger group of
> taxonomists, or few people concentrating on a yet another new specimen
of Tyrannosaurus rex?
>         Like all other governmental agencies, NSF needs to reevaluate
> its priorities.  Attaching the word "phylogenetic" to a proposal might
make it more appealing to some, but maybe it is a bit like attaching the
word "natural" to a food product.  In other words, it might just be
meaningless "PR".  If the proposals indicate an inordinate amount of
time running computer analyses, rather than actually studying living
organisms, maybe they shouldn't get as much funding.  And as fond as I
am personally on the systematics of theropod dinosaurs, we have to give
priority to the living species we are killing off.  Spending months or
even years on a single fossil specimen has often become a case of
diminishing returns.  Collecting fossils should continue, but the time
has finally come for extremely time-consuming preparation to take a back
seat to studying living organisms.
>        --------Ken Kinman
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Dr. Norman I. Platnick
Peter J. Solomon Family Curator of Spiders
Division of Invertebrate Zoology
American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th Street
New York NY 10024

phone:  212-769-5612
fax:    212-769-5277
email:  platnick at amnh.org

See the World Spider Catalog, version 9.5, at

See the goblin spider Planetary Biodiversity Inventory website, at

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