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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.

  1. What are the important research questions that require taxonomic research and natural history collections?

  2. What important societal benefits accrue from taxonomic research and natural history collections?

  3. What are the principal challenges and opportunities in taxonomic research and education?

  4. 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?

  5. 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?

  6. 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?

  7. 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?

  8. 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?

  9. 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?

  10. 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?

  11. 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?

  12. 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?

  13. 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 taxon-focused societies?

Photo by Charles Glatzer