Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The dismal terrestrial biodiversity survey record

'Bringing the Ocean to the World, in High-Tech' is a report in todays New York Times. It is a US $331 million program dreamed of by oceonographers and being financed by the National Science Foundation.

It has all the thrills of discovering and describing new frontiers, high tech, intersting experiments, and access to information using the Internet, and last but not least, scientists behind who drive the project.

In terrestrial and ecology we used to dream of such programs. But they all failed. It strikes me, that most of these elements have not been an integral part of the last few attempts to make such bold projects, such as the ALL species project or now the recently announced Encyclopedia of Life.

One might ask, that the reason being that oceanography like astrophysics or particle physics had traditionally been based on large research infrastructure which had to be shared.

But I would rather think, that we are in the unfortunate situation that our leaders do not have the commitment to the project needed to go through it. They do not know the nitty gritty work, the technology behind nor are they able to work for years towards a dream. It has nothing to do with creating a hypothesis and then letting others to deal with the details. But unfortunately, these people sit on the right place to initiate large initiatives, but loose them as soon as more then talk and ideas are needed. This is a real tragedy.


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