Tuesday, 2 June 2009
Part of the eBiosphere conference involved several break-out sessions, one of them being on cybertaxonomy. Within minutes of the session starting we ran into the first problem: what is cybertaxonomy?
This is bound to be fairly contentious. Many of the people who were there are involved in projects that involve taxonomy and the internet, and would like to define cybertaxonomy in a way that their project lies slap-bang in the middle of the definition. In the end I think that Vince Smith's definition is perhaps the most useful, given the breadth of ideas and projects that should fall under the cybertaxonomy umbrella. (Incidentally Vince is the world's first (and only?) official Cybertaxonomist.)
"Cybertaxonomy is using computers and/or networks for doing taxonomy."
Then the thing took a bit of a nose-dive as people tried to list ideas and projects that they thought were related to a (somewhat vague) definition of cybertaxonomy. This was (for me at least) rather tedious - most of the projects I knew about already (as did most people I think) and I'd have rather spent the time learning something new, or at least making use of the fact that all of these people were together in the same room at the same time.
The discussion then covered a few of the community's favourite 'hot topics'. Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) being one that has been mentioned many times before. Personally I doubt that publishers will freely give up their exclusive rights to content for nothing - they will need incentives. Whether the incentive is a carrot or a stick is a matter for debate.
I work on projects related to technology and taxonomy at the Natural History Museum, and as an advisor for the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. My interests are in entomology (stick insects, cockroaches and insect acoustics) and how technology can change the way research is done in biology and museums. Big fan of open access, open data and open hardware.
Copyright Ed Baker