Monday, January 04, 2010

Thoughts on the International Year of Biodiversity 2010

Given that a new decade prompts predictions, as well as New Year's resolutions, and that 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity, which comes complete with glossy web sites and calls for action, I'm making some predictions of my own, inspired in part by Eric Hellman's Ten Predictions for the Next Ten Years. I won't be nearly as bold as Eric, I'm limiting myself to biodiversity informatics, and the coming year. Here are my predictions:

  1. The Encyclopedia of Life will continue it's slow decline into irrelevance. Nobody will care, as we have Wikipedia.

  2. Catalogue of Life (CoL) will issue another release, complete with much fanfare. The LSIDs for the 2009 release (which have never worked) will continue to fail, LSIDs for 2010 either won't be released, or will fail. Nobody will care.

  3. There will be much talk of integrating biodiversity data. Unless GBIF adopts resolvable identifiers for specimens, and a major nomenclator or taxonomic name database (re)uses resolvable identifiers for literature (e.g., DOIs and BHL URLs), nothing of significance in this area will happen. Database providers will continue to confuse "link integration" (i.e., sharing URLs, doi:10.1038/nrg1065) with genuine integration.

  4. For most young scientists GenBank will be the dominant source of information about biodiversity. If it hasn't been sequenced, they won't care about it.

  5. DNA barcoding by itself will become boring, but will be the best tool with which to engage the public about taxonomy (e.g., Barcoding, taxonomy and citizen CSI).

  6. Literature that is not online will cease to be read. Taxonomic groups where the literature is not online will effectively cease to be studied.

  7. The major databases will continue to be riddled with errors. These will be numerous enough to be annoying, but not so numerous as to prevent useful work being done. The databases will make no (serious) effort to fix these (doi:10.1126/science.319.5870.1598).

  8. No major database effort will adopt wikis.

  9. Data providers such as Thomson Reuters (Index of Organism Names) will continue to clutch to debilitating notions of "intellectual property." As the coverage of the Biodiversity Heritage Library, and the reach of Google's indexing increase, commercial indexing services will become irrelevant.

  10. The chasm between the classifications that underlie efforts such as EOL, and phylogenetic trees being generated by systematists will grow. Neither community will care.

What are your predictions?