This week’s Ask a Science Blogger is
What’s the most underfunded scientific field that shouldn’t be underfunded?
In my view, it is taxonomy. We classify species and higher groups for a number of reasons, but the pressing reason right now is that taxonomy is the basis of nearly all measures of biodiversity, and we can’t sensibly measure what is happening in terms of extinctions unless we describe and name the species that exist at present.
Almost no spending is done on basic taxonomy, and yet most biology relies deeply upon it in one way or another. The EU is setting up a general taxonomic database right now, and similar systems are in development elsewhere, but they’ll be useless in the longer term if we don’t describe species that we don’t yet know about. There’s a lot of work to be done, and taxonomy is presently done in the gaps of funded research, as a side thought.