[Taxacom] article on taxonomy

Steve Manning sdmanning at asub.edu
Sat Feb 27 16:09:55 CST 2010

I agree that we will never get "massive funding".  But most of us at 
least need enough funding to survive and it would be good if that 
funding could be for doing biological exploration and taxonomy 
full-time instead of as a part of one's responsibility in a 
University, including teaching, other research and administrivia.  It 
seems to me there would be more "bang for the buck" if there were 
more people getting modest funding than for big money to go to 
particular grand projects.  But we do seem to me to need at least 
enough more funding to get over this threshold of 
sustainability.  That is a big part of why I am not out there doing 
full time exploration or research at present. There was a time that I 
would have preferred to do that but I didn't find a related job that 
would pay a living wage except in teaching.


At 03:17 AM 2/27/2010, Bob Mesibov wrote:
>Dear nando,
>Many thanks for your thoughts, and again thank you very much for 
>your excellent opinion article.
>You are the second person on this list to see my sentence "3. 
>Taxonomists should stop seeking scientific prestige and big funding" 
>and interpret it as a call for taxonomists not to seek better 
>funding, or to work as amateurs, or to become some sort of religious 
>order with vows of poverty. It is my fault, then. I didn't make my 
>meaning clear enough. Here is what I think:
>- Taxonomy will never, ever, get the massive funding and personnel 
>it needs to do its job properly. It is undeniably true that very 
>good taxonomy can be done cheaply by relatively untrained people 
>(think of a skilled botanist who does not have molecular training, 
>or access to a sequencing lab). For this reason it is bad policy to 
>throw vast amounts of money in the general direction of taxonomy. 
>The working unit of taxonomy is the specialist, and their numbers 
>and their productivity are limited by interest, education and 
>experience, not by the availability of funds. This is one of the 
>reasons (in my opinion) that Rio led to the foolish disasters you 
>wrote about. Projects on the edges of taxonomy were there to absorb 
>the money that was not taken up by discoverers and documenters - 
>although of course I do not mean this in the literal sense.
>- Because we will never get that big funding or prestige, we should 
>not be wasting time dreaming about it or plotting to get it. We 
>should just get on with the job of discovering and documenting with 
>whatever resources we *can* get, and today, for most practising 
>taxonomists, amateur and professional, that of course means digital 
>libraries and digital tools. This is an ethical position, still, and 
>not a call for action. I am not responding to the utter failure of 
>Rio 1992 by saying 'We didn't get money, so let's give up, it's 
>hopeless.' I am saying 'We didn't get money, we need to focus on 
>discovering and documenting and stop dreaming that this is just a 
>temporary setback and that if we lobby hard enough then taxonomy can 
>become the Queen of the Biological Sciences again.'
>On your concerns about the professional/amateur divide, please see 
>the documents (Pages and Files) at 
>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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