Thursday, July 21, 2011

Why am I going to TDWG 2011?

Well, I promise you, the location has little to do with it (well, maybe more than just a little). I already envision myself sitting in some cool bar in the Frech quarter, eating soul food (drinking a little), listening to great music and talking about, let's see, biological collections digitization, data acquisition, data integration, phylogenetics standards, interoperability, cool new tools (like BiSciCol...because I am not biased :-), etc. etc.

Jokes aside, why do I really want to go to TDWG this year?!
There is so much going on right now, such a renewed interest in collections and digital data. First BiSciCol and then VertNet were funded, iDigBio is in place, 3 awesome Thematic Collections Networks have also been funded, covering 90+ Institutions in 45 US States, in addition to a bunch of other collections being supported by NSF through their regular programs. Can it get much better in these economic times? Some exciting new blogs have bee popping up lately, proposing cool ideas, different approaches, encouraging us to think outside the box.  Yes, we've been talking about these topics for a long time but I get a clear sense that now we can DO things, and can go well beyond talking about them.  We can actually experiment now and scale up our ideas to see if new approaches can be successfully implemented. We finally have the means! We have the attention of our funding agencies and a few seeds have been planted already (can't stop botanizing!).

I am excited because with this renewed feeling of being able to actually change things, make progress, provide a clear input, we can come together as an inclusive community.  This is perhaps a first solid opportunity for real cross-fertilization among different groups, like TDWG and SPNHC, BiSciCol with VertNet and other domain specific networks, and what about getting more biologists involved in the geek world?  Not that we haven't been supporting each other before, but I can see this time is different.  This time is not just about the momentum, the charge we all feel when we get together at a meeting and plan ahead. This time we can all be excited about going back home and getting down to work! I am really hopeful that the recent events and investment provide the glue that we all have been needing for a long time. We are in the same boat and everyone's input is no little contribution.

We have an opportunity to work as a community, think globally and act locally (who said that?! Feels nice right now!). It is not anyone's mission to succeed, it is OUR collective mission.  So, I am excited to gather around our common problems and bottlenecks, and being able to concretely share the load by developing parallel approaches and putting them to work, together. The goal ultimately is to create an environment where we can all do better science, cool science, where posing new challenging questions will be fun because we know we will have the means to answer them.  It's going to be a great playground! And that's why I am going!