[Taxacom] decline and fall of taxonomy

Dean Pentcheff pentcheff at gmail.com
Wed Jun 17 01:26:20 CDT 2009

I'll chime in here in support of Donat.

I'm not sure he meant that the increasing digitization of taxonomy is
causing (or will necessarily cause) an increase in the number of
taxonomists. What it will do is slow the decline and prevent the
effective death of taxonomy (except as a gentleman and gentlewoman's

A very telling remark was made by an (actually the only) undergraduate
at a recent small working group crustacean taxonomists. After hearing
us thinking about and muttering about beginning to tackle digitizing
access to the literature, he said (paraphrasing): "You folks should
realize the importance of the decision you're making here. If you
don't get the literature online, no one in my generation will go into
this science. We aren't going to spend the better part of a Master's
and Ph.D. program amassing the paper literature for a group. We'll
just do some other kind of biology."

Digitizing this science won't guarantee it will thrive. Failing to
will guarantee it will die.

Dean Pentcheff
pentcheff at gmail.com

On Tue, Jun 16, 2009 at 9:42 PM, Bob Mesibov<mesibov at southcom.com.au> wrote:
> Donat, your anecdotal evidence that people are attracted to certain projects is very interesting. However every review of taxonomy I have read in the past 15 years tells me that the number of working taxonomists is decreasing. What solid evidence is there that the number of working taxonomists has been increased by the availability of digital tools? Or are you simply hopeful that this will happen?
> And once attracted, how are new taxonomists going to make a living as professionals? Is the number of job openings for taxonomists increasing?
> Note that I am talking about taxonomy in the traditional sense: the discovery, documentation and classification of life. If you believe that taxonomy includes gathering up COI barcodes and building trees with them without careful study of the whole organisms, let alone formally naming and describing them, then we have another difference of opinion.
> --
> Dr Robert Mesibov
> Honorary Research Associate
> Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and
> School of Zoology, University of Tasmania
> Home contact: PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
> (03) 64371195; 61 3 64371195
> Website: http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/mesibov.html
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