[Taxacom] decline and fall of taxonomy

Fabian Haas fhaas at icipe.org
Tue Jun 16 03:33:24 CDT 2009


Hi Bob,

thanks and good to hear you find my contribution useful.

As I wrote that piece some time ago, I am not sure what I actually meant 
back then, whats more is that this para is actually from Arthur Chapman, 
you find the whole of his response on the discussion page. However, you 
have the point, I integrated it on my text, so I basically agreed with it.

Probably I was thinking following.

Something like with the whole satellite imagery, like you have on google 
earth or so. Before satellites images were expensive, and so the use was 
limited to fairly few users. Now that the information is out there, a 
whole lot of uses mushroomed (even thorugh one could argue google earth 
is not exact to the last digit, and resolution is limited). Uses have 
gone into some totally unexpected ways and even I use it for my personal 
nature photos etc. I think GBIF is also such an example (again people 
might argue information is not accurate to the last digit, mis-ID, 
georeferencing pose challenges). But suddendly as the information is out 
there, people use it for completely unexpected ways, climate change, 
agriculture, environmental Impact assessments what not etc... Much 
beyond what people thought of when thinking of such a system.

In that sense also the information in the Rotifers of Korea (or even the 
Earwigs of East Africa) are useful and may be an important stepping 
stone which will be more often used the easier it is to understand. I am 
well aware that  there are limits to simplifications, though, not the 
point here.

Obviously, that does not directly translate to sales, but proves the 
usefulness of this field of science, and hopefully translates into new 
employment and projects, or maybe just keeping positions instead of 
cutting back. I am sure without such demonstration of usefulness, and 
making the information available, so that other scientists and engineers 
and even politicians can work with it (or just with pieces of this 
information, such as species name and location, which by all means is 
NOT taxonomy as a whole, just a it of it), we definitely wont survive as 
a science field. I do see the problem that you get money for digitising 
and databasing and out reach more esily than for actual research, but my 
hope is that the users will come back and as more detailed questions, 
supported with some funding.

I think thats about it.

Best
Fabian

PS: there was a note on the Hubble picture and those of Biodiversity. 
Well in the end it is a personal preference what you like more. I 
suspect space imagery still has an advantage because it is much less 
common, less often seen in daily life than biodiv. Further most of the 
things out there, you cannot see by your naked eye, while for Biodiv, 
you can cover a lot without special equipment. So novelty and 
technicality and fascination with the biggest and the oldest come 
together in space imagery, giving it much more attention than expected y 
ist non-importance for daily life.








Bob Mesibov wrote:
> Hi, Fabian.
>
> I think your Web page discussion is an excellent snapshot of the situation (and people's biases) at the turn of the 21st century. Your picture of who the users are and what they want is particularly good. It's clear from that picture (and IMO has been clear for some time) that the massive data aggregation projects of the past few years have been supplier-driven efforts without much thought given to exactly who would consume the results and for what purposes.
>
> However, you hedge a little by saying
>
> "As shown in other areas of endeavour, the more useable the information produced, the more demand for the information is generated and hence the increase in support for the science."
>
> By 'information' I assume you mean 'taxonomic results', so I don't see how this works. The market for specialist field and taxonomic guides is very limited. How many copies could I sell of a 'Guide to the Rotifers of the Korean Peninsula', no matter how easy to use it was? As you point out early in your piece, it's only a very small proportion of the world's biota that interests non-taxonomists in general. Specialist taxonomic results might be of interest to a few naturalists and biologists, but those people aren't going to eagerly demand more results, and they aren't going to lobby their politicians to increase funding for work on the taxon of interest. Can you explain, then, what you meant in the quote (above)?
>   

-- 

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Dr. Fabian Haas
ICIPE - African Insect Science for Food and Health
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