Chris Raper (see his blog at http://chrisraper.org.uk/blog/) had a thoughtful reply to my post. With his permission, I’m making it available here as a guest post for flyobsession.
Some good points there Brian … how about also:
– We need to work through the millions of indet. and unmounted specimens help in museums around the world. Vast quantities of material exists on our doorsteps but lacks the time and experts to work through them. I know for a fact that the NHM & OUM have a lot of material that has been collected (often in malaise traps) and just sits on the shelves waiting for someone to work on them. The initial sorting can be done by volunteers or students, pinning can be done by out-sourcing but the taxonomic work needs to be done by the very few experts around the world.
– Digitisation of types – we need to make collections more accessible and harness the power of the internet by demanding that all major museums take high-res images of their collections (or types as a minimum) and make these available online free of charge. It might be too much to think that we could see enough to completely describe something (though with deep-focus/stacked imaging this is getting easier) but one of the most basic thing we need to do is to see whether the specimen in our hands looks like reliably-detted material. Just being able to Google for images of different genera would help me immensely and would reduce much of need for loaning valuable specimens or for expensive visits to foreign museums.
– More digitisation of all journals/articles and these to be made available free online. Projects like BHL are doing great work but they are not yet as comprehensive a collection of papers as they need to be. We all still keep far too many paper journals and PDF libraries on our hard-drives – just in case.
– We need to work together – using the internet / modern comms (forums/blogs) to help each other more and to mentor young entomologists and to develop/encourage enthusiastic amateurs (‘citizen scientists’) to pick-up groups and run with them. Online forums like diptera.info and bugguide.net are great for this but I feel that they are under-used or under-appreciated by many professional entomologists who feel that giving IDs to photos or working with amateurs is beneath them or a waste of time. Since setting up the UK Tachinid Recording scheme and providing a strong online presence (as well as seminars and workshops) we have managed to take tachinids from a fringe interest here to something that more and more entomologists are keen to try. We add between 1-2 new species to the British list and most of those from amateurs who have been encouraged by our scheme.
– There needs to be more money to pay for morphological taxonomy. In Europe there are many keen citizen scientists but they have to spend most of their time doing mundane jobs to pay the bills, when their time could better be used doing important taxonomic work. They can only be freed up if they can get contracts or salaried posts, working perhaps at home but attached to major institutions. We have much of the necessary manpower but at the moment it is badly under-funded and under resourced … even simple things like equipment and travel expenses are often down to the person to fund themselves and in hard economic times like these this is getting less and less possible.
I’m sure there are more things but those will do for a start