[Taxacom] Costello on species again: new paper

Roderic Page r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk
Sun Jun 9 06:46:35 CDT 2013


Dear Chris,

So you know of some 500 undescribed species, material for which is sitting in the Smithsonian, and all(!) that is needed is your time and expertise, plus costs of imaging (and possibly DNA sequencing)?

A finite project like this seems an ideal candidate for a "Kickstarter" type appeal. Get an estimate of cost (such that you aren't out of pocket, plus imaging/DNA/Open Access costs/other fees), and create an appeal. This is the sort of thing that organisations like EOL and ICZN could get involved in. They don't need to provide money, but lend their imprimatur (plus assurances that the results go straight into EOL, perhaps highlighted). Publishers of journals like ZooKeys or Zootaxa could get on board, again, not necessarily costing them money, but helping with publicity. The Smithsonian could waive bench fees (if they apply) in return for publicity. Exploit the Bill Gates link mercilessly. Don't hit him up for money, he's already doing his bit for the planet, but trade off the name (this is Bill Gate's fly, and there maybe more out there...).

To make the project more attractive, include funds for an intern, a young person interested in taxonomy. They might not end up studying flower flies - hey, maybe you'll have described them all ;) -  but they get training in fundamental taxonomic research.

My impression is that in the "good old days" (pre 20th century with it's government-funded science) taxonomists had all sorts of mechanisms to get funding (including selling specimens, subscriptions to to limited-edition print runs, etc.). 

Maybe it's time for us to stop saying "oh well" and get creative about how we fund taxonomy.

Relevant links:

http://www.kickstarter.com/

http://www.rockethub.com/

Regards

Rod


On 8 Jun 2013, at 15:58, Chris Thompson wrote:

> All:
> 
> As an older RETIRED taxonomist, I can verify that Jason has hit the mark.
> 
> I know of and have vouchers of some 500 new species of flower flies 
> (Insecta: Diptera: Syrphidae).
> 
> However, today the standards for new species descriptions have greatly 
> increased, but FUNDing for taxonomists has greatly DECREASED. So, those 
> vouchers sit in the collection (Smithsonian/USNM) undescribed as there is no 
> funds to take images of the types and prepare the other now required things. 
> [I recently had a reviewer ask why I did not get a DNA barcode, that is, 
> submit part of the type (a leg) for analysis, etc.)
> 
> Give me just a faction of what these new molecular "systematists" are 
> getting in grants, etc., I could easily clear up my back log of species. 
> Unfortunately, no one wants to fund simply old fashioned ALPHA taxonomy. So 
> the rate of new species descriptions goes down.
> 
> And when studies in Ecology and related sciences need species level 
> identification, one simply gets "species A; B; C; etc.")
> 
> Oh, well ...
> 
> Sincerely,
> 
> Chris
> 
> -----Original Message----- 
> From: JF Mate
> Sent: Saturday, June 08, 2013 8:52 AM
> To: Taxacom
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Costello on species again: new paper
> 
> They seem to be taking a leaf out of ECON 101 and developing a taxonomic
> GDP: GTP or Gross Taxonomic Product. It has worked really well for the
> economy so I can imagine all the positive applications for science (akin to
> Impact Factor) for tenure, funding, etc.
> 
> On a more serious note, I wonder if you can compare output across time the
> way they seem to do. Without wanting to stir the proverbial bucket, maybe
> taxonomists are (in general) just gathering more data for each description?
> There is the issue of tidying-up previous work, incorporating phylogenetic
> information into the descriptions (more data gathering plus analysis);
> tracking down types, etc. One only needs to look at descriptions from the
> 60´s to see that you could have fit them in an A5 double spaced, often with
> a single, rather crude illustration. Good luck getting that out nowadays
> and not be laughed out ;)
> 
> Jason
> 
> 
> 
> 
> On 8 June 2013 11:44, Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz> wrote:
> 
>> Costello, M.J.; Wilson, S.; Houlding, B. 2013: More taxonomists describing
>> significantly fewer species per unit effort may indicate that most species
>> have been discovered. Systematic biology, doi: 10.1093/sysbio/syt024
>> 
>> This seems to be "all over the place" - as per usual ...
>> 
>> Stephen
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> Celebrating 26 years of Taxacom in 2013. 
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> Celebrating 26 years of Taxacom in 2013.
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---------------------------------------------------------
Roderic Page
Professor of Taxonomy
Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences
Graham Kerr Building
University of Glasgow
Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK

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