[Taxacom] The role of ADBC (NSF national digitizationsol...

Bob Mesibov mesibov at southcom.com.au
Wed Sep 29 18:57:35 CDT 2010

Stephen Thorpe wrote:

"is taxonomy a closed shop?"

Sure. So is expert knowledge of the night sky, or of Holden cars manufactured in the 1970s. Everyone can't know everything, and for people outside a group of specialists, the specialist knowledge looks like esoterica held within an exclusive sect.

"Do taxonomists do taxonomy just for other taxonomists?"

Don't reckon. They share their specialist knowledge with the world. Sometimes they do it by compiling bottom-up Web resources, sometimes by selling their advice as consultants. Museum specialists often have 'engage with the wider community' in their job description.

"Is the value of every initiative to be determined by how it facilitates the work of taxonomists (and associated collections people), and/or injects $$$ into their economy, without regard for what anybody outside of that closed loop might benefit fromĀ it in terms of reliable knowledge?"

Good question. Now ask it about other exports from the world of specialist knowledge, like pharmaceutical compendia, online law records, medical references and share price analysis. The common answer is that it's better to have it out there than not, but it's always best to consult your taxonomist/pharmacist/lawyer/doctor/investment adviser. The conservation or biosecurity bureaucrat who makes decisions from databases without consulting a specialist is a bloody idiot.
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
Webpage: http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/?articleID=570

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