A strategic disconnect
- Troops on the ground - the recorders whose main interest is enjoyment of the countryside, learning about wildlife and acquiring new skills (and maybe new friendship groups).
- Organisers - a lot of work goes into running a publicly-facing scheme. In the case of popular taxa that organisation can be vast - just think of the county flora committees and rare bird panels, not to mention the local organisers for WeBs counts. Within the Hoverfly Recording Scheme we have seen the impact of growing interest and activity - there are now eight people involved in running the Scheme. The work involves: ID of photos/specimens; data extraction; managing the FB page; data management; report-writing and production of newsletters. Just four years ago there were three of us (Stuart, me and David Iliff). The diagram I produced for a previous post serves to illustrate the volume of work that goes into scheme administration.
- The professionals - data managers in LRCs and BRC, programmers who write the data management and dissemination packages.
- Analysts - the statisticians who do the number crunching and deliver the outputs wanted by Government and NGOs.
|Schematic representation of administrative jobs for running a modern recording scheme|
AnalysisAt each level the numbers diminish but all are essential. What is generally overlooked is that although in some disciplines the technical ID skills are honed strictly on a non-vocational basis (e.g. most birding, butterflies, dragonflies), many others require an element of formal training and many years of study that is rarely achieved without access to museum collections and to other 'professionals' who play an important mentoring role. Those skills were once developed by local and national museums, research institutes such as ITE and the Commonwealth Institute, and even Government agencies - e.g. the late lamented 'Chief Scientists Team' of the Nature Conservancy Council. This latter team spawned many of the leading specialists of today, but has been disbanded and there is no replacement. When the CST generation goes, there is nothing to follow them.
It is noticeable that if you want an internationally recognised engineer with thirty year's experience you can expect to pay anything between £700 and £1000+ per day for those skills. By contrast, an entomologist with the same level of expertise will generally attract under £400 per day! True, the engineer will be creating commercially or socially important structures. But then, the recognised taxonomist may well produce the information that might help to avert a very different crisis. It is all about risks and values - the risk of ecosystem collapse is very poorly understood, whereas the collapse of a building is not uncommon, and its effects are immediate and high impact!