[Taxacom] Museum research decline

Fautin, Daphne G. fautin at ku.edu
Wed Dec 18 18:21:09 CST 2013

Recall that much early science (including taxonomy) was done by members of the leisure class -- one need look no further than Darwin.  Of course, there were the working stiffs, such as Wallace.  But neither was considered a scientist -- that occupation is a very recent creation.  This does not directly address the question -- but it does point out that prosperity is not antithetical to scientific curiosity/drive.  In fact, an analysis I heard this week was that much DIY biology, which strikes fear into the hearts particularly of molecular and biomedical types (for good ethical reasons, perhaps, but we in taxonomy are accustomed to it -- "amateurs," "hobbyists," or whatever non-pejorative term you wish to use describe a huge proportion of new species each year!), is done by people with some training, up to and including Ph.D.s -- just in unconventional settings.

Daphne G. Fautin
Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Curator, Natural History Museum (Biodiversity Institute)
University of Kansas
1200 Sunnyside Avenue
Lawrence, Kansas 66045 USA

telephone 1-785-864-3062
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    database of hexacorals, including sea anemones
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From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] on behalf of Fred Schueler [bckcdb at istar.ca]
Sent: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 9:17 PM
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Cc: Aleta Karstad; Francis R. Cook; Owen Clarkin
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Museum research decline

On 12/17/2013 6:41 PM, John Grehan wrote:

> A speculative question - is it possible that the decline in support for
> research scientists is related to the decline in the 'middle class' (at
> least in the United States where it is in decline with more ultra rich and
> more far less well off)?

* I have long wondered about the coincidence, in Canada, between the
beginning of the decline in support for the National Museum (1977), and
the publication by the staff, in the 1970s, of lists of endangered
species and studies of climate change.

There's a currently popular song about the Canadian economy - "The
System isn't broken it was made that way," and, on this hypothesis, the
decline of support for museum research and exploration would have
occurred at the point where these activities began to threaten to impede
exploitative economic activities rather than assisting them. This
perhaps ascribes an implausible level of foresight to the
exploitationists, but the coincidence is striking.

fred schueler
Research Curator
          Frederick W. Schueler & Aleta Karstad
Bishops Mills Natural History Centre - http://pinicola.ca/bmnhc.htm
Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills - http://pinicola.ca/mudpup1.htm
Daily Paintings - http://karstaddailypaintings.blogspot.com/
          RR#2 Bishops Mills, Ontario, Canada K0G 1T0
   on the Smiths Falls Limestone Plain 44* 52'N 75* 42'W
    (613)258-3107 <bckcdb at istar.ca> http://pinicola.ca/

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