[Taxacom] Funding by NSF for taxonomy and phylogenetics compared

Richard Zander Richard.Zander at mobot.org
Sun Jan 10 11:06:29 CST 2016

I have submitted over the years various diatribes and Jeremiads to Taxacom against the outrages of phylogenetics. Some Taxacomers have reassured us that phylogenetics is a passing fad, and will fade away like the morning dew, or change into something deep and refreshing.

Just to check with reality, I searched the funding database in NSF for the words "phylogeny" and "taxonomy" in the titles or abstracts for the last 5 years. The results, which I tabulated in Excel, are:

        Phylogeny                                       Taxonomy
2015    33611140                                2015    16574900
2014    23649263                                2014    14951327
2013    11091123                                2013    12055369
2012    8052574                         2012    16439643
2011    8801433                         2011    22627716

total   85205533                                total   82648955

Thus, projects about "phylogeny" and those about "taxonomy" are about equally funded over the last 5 years at $82 to 85 million dollars.  Taxonomy seems to be holding steady at around $12-14 million per year, but phylogeny has had a burst of popularity among NSF grantors, doubling in funding during 2013-2014, and then increasing in 2015 by another 10 million dollars. It is presently funded at double the rate of taxonomy.

Some have said that phylogenetics research usually includes good taxonomy. Check the pages of top phylogenetics journals and see if you agree with them that phylogenetics contributes to taxonomic knowledge in the classical sense.

Richard H. Zander
Missouri Botanical Garden - 4344 Shaw Blvd. - St. Louis - Missouri - 63110 - USA
richard.zander at mobot.org<mailto:richard.zander at mobot.org>
Web sites: http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/bfna/bfnamenu.htm and http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/resbot/

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