[Taxacom] Pop article on taxonomy's decline

Tony.Rees at csiro.au Tony.Rees at csiro.au
Thu Jan 27 21:00:50 CST 2011


Hi Stephen, all,

The numbers quoted earlier do not come from GNI, but from here:

http://www.species.asu.edu/SOS

where they are compiled from a range of reputable sources, all cited I think.

Cheers - Tony
 

> -----Original Message-----
> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [mailto:taxacom-
> bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Stephen Thorpe
> Sent: Friday, 28 January 2011 1:58 PM
> To: Neal Evenhuis; tillier at mnhn.fr; Bob Mesibov; Richard Pyle
> Cc: taxacom
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Pop article on taxonomy's decline
> 
> >Therefore, GNI is not really the place to see how many new species were
> proposed
> >in a given year
> 
> yes, but someone might try to use it for that, so we need to beware
> 
> I don't think that there is a place to see how many new species were
> proposed in
> a given year! Isn't that one of the things biodiversity informatics is
> (slowly)
> working towards??
> 
> so, I think we should be *highly cautious* about any claimed numbers ... I
> still
> think 18000 is an order of magnitude too high for 2008 ... but how can I
> check?
> 
> 
> Stephen
> 
> 
> 
> 
> ________________________________
> From: Neal Evenhuis <neale at bishopmuseum.org>
> To: Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>; "tillier at mnhn.fr"
> <tillier at mnhn.fr>; Bob Mesibov <mesibov at southcom.com.au>; Richard Pyle
> <deepreef at bishopmuseum.org>
> Cc: taxacom <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
> Sent: Fri, 28 January, 2011 3:52:38 PM
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Pop article on taxonomy's decline
> 
> GNI actually pulls up ALL records of a name -- misspellings, subsequent
> usage,
> etc.!
> 
> Searching back to 2001 you get totals varying from 24079 (for 2008) to
> 114252
> (for 2004!) -- click on some of the names and you will see it whenever a
> name
> has been listed in a publication. Therefore, GNI is not really the place
> to see
> how many new species were proposed in a given year.
> 
> -Neal
> 
> On 1/27/11 4:30 PM, "Stephen Thorpe"
> <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz<mailto:stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>> scribbled
> the
> following tidbit:
> 
> maybe that figure of 18225 is OK ... hard to say, but one needs to be
> careful
> a search for 2008 on Global Names Index pulls up 24079 records (including
> new
> genera etc., as well as new species)
> http://gni.globalnames.org/name_strings?search_term=2008
> *but* just looking at the first page of 803 reveals 7 repeats based on
> minor
> citation variants (comma absent or present, authors in full or et al.,
> etc.)
> so, the number could be well astray quite easily ...
> 
> ________________________________
> From: Neal Evenhuis
> <neale at bishopmuseum.org<mailto:neale at bishopmuseum.org>>
> To: "tillier at mnhn.fr<mailto:tillier at mnhn.fr>"
> <tillier at mnhn.fr<mailto:tillier at mnhn.fr>>; Bob Mesibov
> <mesibov at southcom.com.au<mailto:mesibov at southcom.com.au>>; Richard Pyle
> <deepreef at bishopmuseum.org<mailto:deepreef at bishopmuseum.org>>
> Cc: taxacom
> <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu<mailto:taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>>
> Sent: Fri, 28 January, 2011 1:29:05 PM
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Pop article on taxonomy's decline
> 
> Figures can always be misleading.
> 
> Without doing too much calculation and re-examination of all the
> parameters
> given below, let's just look at one:
> 
> 18225 species described;
> 50 species per year per taxonomist;
> = 346 taxonomists doing all the work!
> I doubt it. Especially since Philippe says 600 are doing Mollusca work
> alone...
> 
> Some of the figures given below are confounded by many real-life
> situations not
> taken into account:
> 1. many co-authors on papers describing species
> 2. students and retired professionals getting little or no pay
> 
> A recalculation given many more complexities and realistic parameters of
> species
> being described should show that very little funding goes to taxonomy as
> compared to systematics.
> 
> -Neal
> 
> 
> On 1/26/11 11:53 PM, "Simon TILLIER"
> <tillier at mnhn.fr<mailto:tillier at mnhn.fr><mailto:tillier at mnhn.fr<mailto:til
> lier at mnhn.fr>>>
>  scribbled the following tidbit:
> 
> Some elements in support to Rich's (unpopular) position:
> 
> 1.  18225 new species have been described in 2008 (source = State of
> Observed Species 2010). This rate of description has existed for more than
> two decades now (source = Philippe Bouchet), and is far higher than ever
> before since Linnaeus times;
> 
> 2. New species are being described by more authors than ever, which is
> obviously in contradiction with the idea of extinction of taxonomists: for
> new Mollusc species, from ca 150 authors since 1930 to 1960, to 400+ in
> 2000
> and 600+ in 2008 (source = Philippe Bouchet)
> 
> 3. The GBIF budget was 2.6 million euros in 2009. A rough calculation of
> the
> cost of a new species description may be as follows:
> - a taxonomist full salary cost may be approximately 60000 euros / year;
> - he/she may describe at least 50 new species per year (much more in some
> taxa), working full time at species description;
> - so a new species description costs ca 1200 euros;
> - the collection, infrastructure and publication costs may double this
> amount, lets accept 2500 euros / species description;
> - then ca 45,5 million euros  are spent yearly to describe 18225 species,
> ie
> 20 times the GBIF budget and probably ca 10 times the cost of all database
> initiatives. The ratio would still be very much higher if we took into
> consideration the capital immobilized in both cases (real estate, etc).
> Spending the GBIF budget on species description would allow an increase in
> description rate of  5-6%, which may well be less than the benefit
> resulting
> from direct access to a lot of information which is physically fragmented
> in
> places too numerous to allow easy access by more  than very few privileged
> professionals.
> 
> So, and unless these rational figures are rationally demonstrated to be
> false, taxonomists are not endangered and the cost of databases is
> trivial,
> even if the quality and quantity of the information accessible obviously
> need improvement.
> 
> I see actually two problems: the first is understanding why we perceive
> taxonomists as endangered when objective observations indicate that this
> is
> not the case, at least in a first approach; and the second problem is how
> we
> can address the absence of any knowledge on something like 50 - 100% of
> all
> living species.
> 
> Simon Tillier
> 
> -----Message d'origine-----
> De :
> taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu<mailto:taxacom-
> bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu><mailto:taxacom-
> bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu<mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>>
>  [mailto:taxacom-
> bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu<mailto:bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu><mailto:bounc
> es at mailman.nhm.ku.edu<mailto:bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>>]
>  De la part de Bob Mesibov
> Envoyé : jeudi 27 janvier 2011 00:34
> À : Richard Pyle
> Cc : TAXACOM
> Objet : Re: [Taxacom] Pop article on taxonomy's decline
> Hi, Rich.
> I think your lack of food may have affected your lines of argument :-)
> Pyle: "First of all, it's wrong."
> Whether existing taxonomists think the databasing efforts are good or not
> isn't
> relevant. The author of the Wired article is Craig McLain, assistant
> director of
> science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center and like you, a
> keen marine
> expeditioner. McLain doesn't knock databasing. He says: 'Thankfully (my
> own
> research has relied upon them), thousands of hours and millions of dollars
> have
> been spent on these initiatives. However, many of these programs did not
> financially support taxonomists generating the data these databases
> required.'
> Pyle: "Second of all, the amount of money spent on all database efforts
> combined
> is *trivial* compared to what is needed to correct the problem."
> Ah, the old 'drop in the bucket' argument from Tom Wolfe's 'Mau Mauing the
> Flak
> Catchers'. Correcting the problem might take millions, who knows? It's a
> fluid
> estimate. Take some real figures: in 2010-11, of the 4 of the 9 taxonomy
> grants
> from the Australian Biological Resources Study (the Federal taxonomy
> honeypot) to
> professional taxonomists were for AUD$10000 *over 3 years*. That really is
> trivial.
> How much does one EOL Biodiversity Synthesis Meeting cost?
> Pyle: "Third, in most cases that money has not come from a source that
> would have
> been available to taxonomists anyway."
> Which is McLain's point, and lots of other people's. That source damn well
> *should*
> have been funding the taxonomists. And here again one of my favourite
> quotes,
> from former EOL head James Edwards: "We have not given enough thought to
> the
> people who provide the information on which the Encyclopedia of Life is
> built," Dr.
> Edwards acknowledged. "We are looking into ways to keep that community
> going."
> (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/26/science/26ency.html?_r=3)
> Pyle: "Fourth, the entire argument is a Red Herring, because the real
> problem with
> misdirected funds is more dollars spent doing lab-based taxonomy, and less
> dollars
> spent doing field-based taxonomy."
> You probably need to clarify that a bit more. I think it's still true that
> most new
> species are 'discovered' in museums and herbaria.
> --
> 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
> Ph: (03) 64371195; 61 3 64371195
> Webpage: http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/?articleID=570
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