A National Strategy for Systematic Biology Research
The UK Systematics Forum
In January 1996, the UK Systematics Forum secured additionalfunding to December 1998 from the Office of Science and Technology, with theprincipal aim of developing a national strategy for systematic biologyresearch.
The Forum was initially set up in February 1994 to promote communication andcoordination within the systematics community. Since then, the group hasestablished a number of initiatives (see below) aimed at developing a network ofUK systematists in order to improve coordination of the nation’s collections andassociated expertise. These activities will provide the basis of carrying outthe Forum’s second phase of work: to develop a strategy for UK research insystematic biology.
A national strategy for systematics research will be developed withconsensus from the wider systematics community. It will aim to identifypriorities for the UK’s expertise and resources by enhancing co-operation andcollaboration between institutions, and to strengthen the case for funding ofsystematic biology.
Commitment to the strategy has already been expressed by the Directors ofthe leading UK collections-holding institutions at a meeting held in April 1996.This meeting was convened by the Forum to initiate discussion on content of thestrategy and to build commitment to the initiative. The next phase will involvea survey of collections-holding institutions to gather base- line information ontheir current policies for systematics collections and research, and surveys ofscientific and user needs for systematic biology research. Once a preliminarystrategy has been developed, the Forum will carry out a wider consultationprocess to ensure that the final document has wide support.
Development of the national strategy will take place alongside the Forum’son-going activities in its role promoting coordination: developing a database ofUK systematics expertise, and supporting meetings of specialist groups ofcollection managers. Information from the database of expertise is availablefrom a searchable directory, accessible from the Forum’s Home Page (http://www.nhm.ac.uk/uksf). Certaininformation in the directory, such as the spread of experitse across taxonomicgroups, will be used in developing the national strategy. UK systematists notcurrently included on the database are therefore urged to complete and submit aquestionnaire – available either on-lineor from the Secretary.