Specific Topics & Issues to be Addressed
Participants will be asked to address the following questions and are
invited to generate additional questions and recommendations as they wish.
- What are the important research questions that require taxonomic
research and natural history collections?
- What important societal benefits accrue from taxonomic research
and natural history collections?
- What are the principal challenges and opportunities in taxonomic
research and education?
- What is an appropriate vision for taxonomy? I.e., where should the
field of taxonomy be in ten years? What can be done to dramatically
increase the speed and efficiency of descriptive taxonomy?
- What unmet needs prevent the taxonomic community from achieving
its vision and potential? Are the greatest funding needs for research,
infrastructure, cyber infrastructure, education, or outreach programs?
- Natural history institutions are facing huge budget problems; many
are losing curators and collection managers. How best
can we educate administrators and policy makers about the value of
natural history collections?
- Loss of taxonomic expertise is a frequently cited problem in
biology. In response, NSF has supported for a decade the Partnerships
to Enhance Expertise in Taxonomy (PEET). PEET's successes have been
widely acknowledged and other countries are seeking to emulate the program.
Is PEET significantly reversing the decline in
loss of expertise? Are there ways in which PEET could be modified or
augmented to improve its success?
- Assembling the Tree of Life (AToL) is an ambitious and increasingly
international effort to reconstruct a framework phylogeny for life.
How does AToL fit into the portfolio of support
for the taxonomic community? Although it is a relatively new program
(having just completed its second annual competition), are there ways
to improve it?
- Discovering and documenting earth's species in the face of
accelerating extinction is a clear example of taxonomy as big science.
NSF's recent Planetary Biodiversity Inventory (PBI) competition, a joint
effort with the ALL Species Foundation, is a novel approach to worldwide
species inventories on a short time scale. What are the recommendations
of the community to NSF with regard to this approach?
- Revisionary Syntheses in Systematics (RevSys) was a recent initiative
at NSF soliciting applications for taxonomic revisions and monographs.
Should this effort continue as is? How might it be improved to better
serve the community?
- As a result of policies established at the advice of the scientific
community, NSF has developed programs that support research requiring
the collection of huge numbers of specimens (e.g., BSI/PBI, RevSys, PEET,
LTER, NEON, etc.). Collectively, these programs - along with museums and
other institutions - form the framework for the discovery and documentation
of biodiversity; i.e., they are the foundation of a biodiversity
(environmental) observatory. However, no federal agency, including NSF,
provides support for the infrastructure of the observatory. Support from
other private and public sources is severely limited. How can/should
this deficiency be remedied?
- What electronic infrastructure does the systematics and collections
community need? How should cyber-infrastructure as a transformative tool
for research and education be developed? What resources are needed to bring
taxonomy, and nomenclature in particular, into the age of electronic publication?
- Would an overarching ad-hoc umbrella organization provide an
effective voice for the taxonomic community and facilitate and monitor
progress on recommendations made by participants of this workshop?
Assuming that such an organization would have sharply focused properties,
how would it complement the mission of the Natural Science Collections
Alliance, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, and
Photo by Charles Glatzer