[Taxacom] Status of Canadian Taxonomic Science

Kipling (Kip) Will kipwill at berkeley.edu
Mon Jan 25 09:31:53 CST 2010

Dear Taxacomers,

I would be very interested to see what members of this list think of a 
recent paper by Packer et al. (2009. The status of taxonomy in Canada 
and impact of DNA barcoding. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 87:1098-1110.)

The discussion is important as a panel will convene this week to 
determine the status and future direction of taxonomy and biodiversity 
science in Canada http://www.scienceadvice.ca/biodiversity.html

If you have an informed opinion, it might be useful for your colleagues 
  on the panel (see link above) to hear from you.

The analysis in the paper above uses a small number of Canadian journals 
(3) to determine trends in taxonomic output. A quick search of any 
typical database (e.g. Zoological record) for authors with Canadian 
addresses and new species descriptions does not show the strong trend 
they portray. Though the notion that funding for taxonomic research has 
declined seems obvious enough, their measure does not seem to provide a 
realistic view.

Additionally, output is measured as number of new species (a 
questionable metric at best), but the most peculiar comparison is 
between “Total new species”, a questionnaire-based number of all 
presumed new species, published or not, for labs funded by Barcode money 
vs. only published new species from labs otherwise funded.

The basic premise seems questionable as well. Where they get the 
quotation “DNA barcoding has taken funds away from traditional 
approaches to taxonomy” is unknown to me. When critiquing DNA barcode 
methods my co-authors and I always took great pains to point out that 
*future funding*, not existing lines of funds, would be directed to 
barcoding over future *integrative taxonomic research*, not "traditional 
taxonomy". Perhaps this committee will be a test of our idea. In any 
case, very few people are interested in holding the status quo, so this 
seems a poorly stuffed straw man.

Kip Will
Kipling W. Will
Associate Professor/Insect Systematist
Associate Director,Essig Museum of Entomology

mail to:
137 Mulford Hall
ESPM Dept.- Organisms & Environment Div.
University of California
Berkeley, California 94720

phone 510-642-4296
fax 510-643-5438

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