[Taxacom] Pop article on taxonomy's decline

Donat Agosti agosti at amnh.org
Fri Jan 28 07:07:07 CST 2011


Sorry, something messed up the last paragraph in my posting, it should read
as this
[Donat Agosti] 

" Making use of IT infrastructure is indeed very important, and this is
indeed done, by the bottom-up initiatives, by BHL, etc. These are
invaluable.

However, there is a lot of near-empty IT infrastructure out there
on the web that just clutters things up. The difference lies in what 
the purpose is. There are those who believe that just having a 
glorious IT infrastructure will solve everything: the content will 
migrate in spontaneously. The bottom-up initiatives have actual 
content and adopt a suitable infrastructure, which is made to serve 
the content.
"

At the same time, there are a huge number of bottom up initiatives that do
not talk to each others (Rod Pages' bubble). An IT infrastructure is needed
to make them talk to each other and provide at least one entry to the
information in this highly decentralized system you mention. If there is not
such a platform, this is not happening. Nobody talks about the multiple of
highly incomplete, orphaned bottom up DBs, for which a lot of money has been
spent, though in very little increments.

Brian Heidorn gave a brilliant talk highlighting this issue at his keynote
presentation at the Scripting Life meeting last week (see slides 14pp in
http://www.slideshare.net/pbheidorn/heidorn-vibrant2011b  ) where he points
out that the data is indeed not just lost in large initiatives, but as much
in the many NSF and similarly funded projects that run and die. Those are
the dark long tail.

The fact is, that we as a community do not deliver even the most basic of
our data, a comprehensive list of taxa. And we will not if we continue to
spend all our time discussing what a name has to be. With this discussion we
can not go to the funder - and increasingly less - to argue, that we need an
infrastructure that supports and maintains it (see eg to problem of
Zoobank/ICZN funding, and probably the end of the large Sloan funding for
the CML.

Finally, one could argue, whether BHL is a bottom-up initiative. From a
taxon specific point of view, it is not. It does not build up taxon specific
BHL content, but is scanning libraries, whereby the initial goal have been
journals and their issues or volumes, and not articles not treatments, what
we taxonomist really want. They learn a lot, and thus I hope it will
continue and deliver content increasingly with a focus to complement other
initiatives for which data is around, such as CML or indeed PBIs or similar
initiatives, or, in the end, what would be of use to IPBES.

Donat




-----Original Message-----
From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
[mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of dipteryx at freeler.nl
Sent: Friday, January 28, 2011 4:04 PM
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Pop article on taxonomy's decline

Van: Donat Agosti [mailto:agosti at amnh.org]
Verzonden: vr 28-1-2011 12:32

> This thread begun with a wired article on the decline of 
> taxonomists. And we discuss now names.

> This is one of the major contributor to make taxonomy obsolete, 
> that we fight about names instead of providing a system that 
> allows us to communicate inside, but even more, people from 
> outside have access to what we do.

> Most of this discussion is a discussion about our past, and does 
> not look forwards where we do not have to carry along the huge 
> backpack of idiosyncrasies. We need to look forwards making use 
> of the IT infrastructure - and that's why it is important.

***
Making use of IT infrastructure is indeed very important, and this is indeed
done, by the bottom-up initiatives, by BHL, etc. These are invaluable.

However, there is a lot of near-empty IT infrastructure out there
on the web that just clutters things up. The difference lies in what 
the purpose is. There are those who believe that just having a 
glorious IT infrastructure will solve everything: the content will 
migrate in spontaneously. The bottom-up initiatives have actual 
content and adopt a suitable infrastructure, which is made to serve 
the content.

Paul

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