[Taxacom] The role of ADBC (NSF nationaldigitizationsolicitation) in the larger digitization context:a beginning, not the end

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Thu Sep 30 15:44:29 CDT 2010

I agree with some of what you say, though I don't think that taxonomists often 
have too much difficulty in finding material to revise, at least if you see the 
job not as identifying every specimen of a taxon in every collection, but rather 
as sorting out the taxon using a representative sample from collections (so it 
is the taxon that is revised, not collections). I don't think taxonomists are in 
any danger of running out of work, even if cataloguing was off the agenda 
completely. The reality is that there are some people who just love to do 
collection management type activities (people who probably played with toy 
soldiers and collected stamps as a child!), and they seem to have more in common 
with management types and funders than they do with scientists, and they can 
perhaps write funding applications that sound more attractive to those who dish 
out the dosh ...

From: David Campbell <pleuronaia at gmail.com>
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Sent: Fri, 1 October, 2010 3:40:17 AM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] The role of ADBC (NSF nationaldigitizationsolicitation) 
in the larger digitization context:a beginning, not the end

> Properly managed collections are the base of 'properly done revisions'.
> really? I would have thought that properly done revisions are the basis for
> 'properly managed collections' ...
Both are important for each other.  You can't do a revision if you
don't even know there might be material present.  For example, it
turns out that a lot of Michael Tuomey's collections are still at the
University of Alabama, despite the fact that the Union army burned
down the campus not too long after Tuomey's death.  However, there's
little data and only a little is catalogued; most people who might be
interested in the material assume it was lost.  But cataloguing
requires some degree of familiarity with the organisms in question.
The feedback between the two is part of why taxonomists don't need to
worry about running out of things to work on.

The fundamental problem is that there is typically little support for
either part of this work.  Unless someone actually employs a
taxonomist, he or she can't dedicate much time to cataloguing or to
revising.  Grants to support visits to collections to work on a fauna
or flora are nice, but one must be able to pay the bills, eat, etc.
when not visiting a collection, and it's hard to apply for a grant
unless one already has a position at a recognized institution.

Dr. David Campbell
The Paleontological Research Institution
1259 Trumansburg Road
Ithaca NY 14850


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