Training resources for taxonomy in Europe

A listing of the existing training resources for taxonomy collected by the European Distributed Institute of Taxonomy (EDIT, Workpackage 8 - Training and Public Awareness) can be found at:

A gap analysis revealed the current status of the training offer in taxonomy in Europe and highlighted the challenges that these training courses have to face in order to meet the standards and needs of the 'twenty-first century' taxonomy. Pertinent issues relate to the accessibility, content, and teaching material of the training courses. The report on a gap analysis on training resources and needs in Europe and globally, with recommendations on priorities can be found here.

European science is facing a tremendous loss of taxonomic expertise. Despite the availability of a well-developed taxonomic infrastructure, European taxonomic research, including its collection management aspects, increasingly relies on an aging taxonomic community, with permanent staff often over 50 years old and with a significant input by retired researchers and skilled amateurs who frequently have to self-fund their research.

Efforts to find enthusiastic young people with an interest in becoming qualified taxonomists are thwarted by insufficient training opportunities and a lack of long-term professional prospects. To address this problem, education is an essential component of EDIT. The main challenge is to stop the loss of taxonomic expertise, and have this negative trend reversed in 5-10 years from now. EDIT will strive to achieve this by increasing the transfer of knowledge and by establishing an integrated European training programme for taxonomy. In parallel, public education will increase the awareness of the vital contribution that taxonomy can make to biodiversity and ecosystem research, and consistent lobbying will contribute to enhance interest of decision-makers and funding agencies.

A first step towards the integration of the training programmes in taxonomy for Europe is to know what is the current offer in training. The present report is an effort to fulfill this need. Based on the results of the present survey and on a call launched to mobilize training providers, the EDIT School of Taxonomy has been established. This School promotes the collaboration between training providers giving similar courses. Among the training providers responding to our call, many emphasized the increased benefits of such a School.

The listing of existing training resources for taxonomy in Europe is based on the answers to the questionnaire “Assessment on training resources for taxonomy”, on additional information from interviews (face to face, by e-mailing and telephone calls), on existing websites and reports. EDIT is a European project focusing on the training organized by European institutions. However, the survey was open to a broad audience with an interest in taxonomy and as a consequence, information on trainings organized outside Europe was gathered too. These responses have also been included in the present report.

The online survey “Assessment on training resources for taxonomy” was designed to collect information on: 
(1) the identity of the respondents and training organisers,
(2) the accessibility to the training,
(3) the training content,
(4) the training material and teaching aid.

This survey was made available online from December 2006 onwards. A call to fill in the questionnaire was launched via the EDIT network and other channels, such as TAXACOM (a mailing list on biological systematics), the European Research on Biodiversity discussion group (EUROBI), DIVERSITAS, Desert*Net, BioNET-INTERNATIONAL, the Global Biodiversity Information Network (GBIF), the Taxonomic Database Working Group (TDWG) and the Global Taxonomy Initiative (GTI) National Focal Points. Moreover, the request was sent to museums, universities, botanical gardens, herbaria, councils, societies and other institutions from about 80 countries. 
Additional information on training was gathered from interviews. The information received on the courses covered the same main issues as the online survey but was generally less detailed.
 
The information was filtered to keep only trainings whose main focus is taxonomy. Consequently, this step excluded the bachelor's lectures with programmes only addressing what taxonomy is and all the inconsistent entries. Finally, a total of 203 complete sets of information on training in taxonomy were gathered (147 from online survey and 56 from interviews). Furthermore, 62 contacts with people involved in taxonomical training were made. Since these contacts did not produce any formal information on training, they were not integrated in this report but will be used in the future to complete our expert database. [Last minute information was received on 2 more courses which are included in the present listing but not in the gap analysis on existing training resources for taxonomy (WP8 - Component 8.1.2)].
 
EDIT is a European project focusing on the training courses organised by European institutions. However, the survey was open to a broad audience with an interest in taxonomy and consequently we received also information on training organised outside Europe. Forty-five (45) sets of information on training in taxonomy were collected and 27 contacts were made. This information will be presented separately from the European results and can be consulted here.

Despite the large effort invested to reach the people involved in taxonomic training, gaps in the results from the survey and interviews still exist. A few countries (Belgium, Slovakia, UK, Netherlands and Denmark) contributed largely to the effort while the gathered information on other countries ranges from incomplete to lacking.
Figure 1 illustrates this fact by showing the density of responses by European countries. The number of answers received from outside Europe is as expected much lower.

Figure 1. Geographical distribution of answers collected on training in taxonomy in Europe.

Acknowledgements

This report was compiled by Vincent Zintzen (Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Belgium) based on a major contribution by An Tombeur and Patricia Mergen (Royal Museum for Central Africa, Belgium), and by Anne Franklin and Isabella Van de Velde (Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Belgium).

We wish to thank the additional contributors who helped and inspired compiling this report:

Isabel Calabuig, Zoological Museum, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Lionel Cavicchioli, Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, France
Carla Corazza, Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Ferrara, Italy
Jérome Degreef, National Botanic Garden of Belgium, Belgium
Yde de Jong, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
Ursula Eberhardt, Centraalbureau voor Schimmelcultures, Netherlands
Joanna Gliwicz, Museum and Institute of Zoology, Poland
Zygmunt Krzeminski, Ministry of the Environment, Poland
Michel Louette, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Belgium
Karol Marhold, Institute of Botany, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Slovakia
Bart Meganck, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Belgium
Katarina Olsavska, Institute of Botany, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Slovakia
Elmar Robbrecht, National Botanic Garden of Belgium, Belgium
Piet Stoffelen, National Botanic Garden of Belgium, Belgium
Franck Theeten, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Belgium
Daniela Tomcikova, Institute of Botany, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Slovakia
Jackie Van Goethem, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Belgium
Peter van Welzen, National Herbarium of the Netherlands, Netherlands
Régine Vignes-Lebbe, Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, France
Lyanne Wylde, Natural History Museum, United Kingdom

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith