[Taxacom] data quality vs. data security: a survey

Bob Mesibov mesibov at southcom.com.au
Fri Feb 12 01:35:37 CST 2010

Richard Pyle wrote:

"The reason I am so excited about it has nothing whatsoever to do with funding (not directly, anyway)... I'm driven by passion, not money....
No, the reason I am so excited is because I see the potential of what the IT community is currently building (and what I am devoting a lot of my time to help build) in helping me, the poor bugger generating the data, to be able to do much much more (more species descriptions, more checklists, more monographs), using much, much less (less time, less money, less frustration, less tedium."

And at what point does your level-headedness kick in, and your excitement get tempered by common sense? How much expensive duplication of effort will you tolerate before you get annoyed by limited results from seemingly unlimited budgets? How many EOL Synthesis Meetings equals one specialist taxonomy conference? How many different ways can you see the same set of georeferenced locations get archived, accessed and displayed, year after year, before you start thinking that the money would have been better spent getting new records?

In the end, will it have been better to spent X million dollars to make it easier for an unemployed taxonomist to contribute to taxonomy in her spare time, or to have spent that money employing her as a taxonomist, training more taxonomists like her and 'citizen scientists' as support staff, funding underfunded natural history collections and doing more, generally, for the poor buggers at the bottom?

Yes, I appreciate that there really isn't an either/or in that last sentence, because the money involved comes from different sources and goes through different channels. But at a higher, more reflective level we certainly are making this choice, and your money-doesn't-matter excitement is helping to perpetuate an extraordinary distortion of values.
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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