The Fourth International Congress on Phthiraptera (ICP4) that will be held in the conference facilities of the Mustafa Hotel, Urgup, Cappadocia, Turkey, between June 13-18, 2010. Further details can be found on the conference website
We will be running a series of Scratchpad training courses, tacked on to various meeting during 2009. The first will be run at end of the e-Biosphere meeting this June, and at the time of writing we still have a few places left (four to be exact). This course will be on Thursday June 4th at the Natural History Museum. An outline of this free 1-day event can be found at http://scratchpads.eu/training. If you or your colleagues are interested in attending, please use this web form to sign up.
Parts of the taxonomic community just don't get sustainability. I have always known this was a problem, but two events this week demonstrate just how much work there is to do in explaining why sustainability matters. Early this week I received a series of e-mails on the TDWG mailing list that said the websites for the two LSID projects on SourceForge are broken (see here and here). For the uninitiated, LSID stands for 'Life Science Identifier'. These are supposed to be the Globally Unique IDentifier (GUID) of choice for the taxonomic community. In essence this is the system of numbering (a barcode if you like) that we give biodiversity data, such that we can electronically find it again. In theory, LSID's were our community’s way of guaranteeing the sustainability (i.e. citability) of biodiversity data, and it is thus deeply ironic that the LSID project has itself proven unsustainable.
Sarah Kemmitt and colleagues at the British Library have just released a podcast of Rod Page's recent talk ‘What’s in a name? – Taxonomy in crisis’. This is part of the libraries excellent TalkScience series. The podcast is limited to Rod's initial presentation, but most of the action took place in the discussion that followed, and in the pub afterwards. I was a little disappointed that the taxonomic luminaries in the audience couldn't muster a stronger defense of taxonomy. A recurring theme of the discussion was the 'post-taxonomist' era, and how we approach the challenges of taxonomy and systematics in a period when there are no more professionals.
Rod Page, professor of taxonomy at the University of Glasgow gave two fascinating and complementary talks on the future of taxonomy in London on March 17th. I have pulled together the various stands of Rod’s talk at the Natural History Museum, which are given below. If you do nothing else (and have a spare hour!), watch the video of Rod’s talk.
"Going digital: what's in it for taxonomy and taxonomists?" Flett Theatre, NHM 11-12.30, refreshments from 10.30.
"What's in a name: Taxonomy in Crisis" British Library, 18-20.30.
In a recent blog post, Rod Page highlighted his concerns about the Scratchpads creating barriers to integrating biodiversity data. In Rod's words "My worry is that in the long term this is going to create lots of silos that some poor fool will have to aggregate together to do anything synthetic with. This makes inference difficult, and also raises issues of duplication (for example, in bibliographies)." Rod is of course right - this is a real risk. However, the initial focus of the Scratchpads was not to solve the data aggregation problem (aka - make Rod's life easier). Rather, they are intended to solve a much bigger problem. One that is endangering the entire discipline. Having solved this in a way that is sympathetic to Rod's concerns, we can then worry about data integration.
Yesterday I was in Paris with Simon Rycroft and Dave Roberts to meet with a team from the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) project. EOL generates mixed feels amongst many taxonomists, but part of the project that I have always supported is their "LifeDesk" component. LifeDesks are EOL's equivalent of the Scratchpads. When initially released, LifeDesks are likely to have less functionality than the Scratchpads, but should be more robust thanks to the greater resources EOL have to throw at them. LifeDesks use the same underlying Content Management System (Drupal) as the Scratchpads, and the goal of the meeting was to find a way of integrating our work such that we could benefit from each others development activities.
There is an interesting and short editorial in this weeks Nature about the closure of Google Research Datasets (formally part of Googles Palimpsest project which I learnt about in SciFoo2007 and later in SciFoo2008). Despite the collapse, Amazon is getting into the business of hosting large research data sets for free, which (according to Nature) should inspire greater use of its S3 cloud computing network. For those who can't access Nature you don't need to read their editorial as their tag line says it all:
"Initiatives for digital research infrastructure should focus more on making standardized data openly available, and less on developing new portals."