State of the science of taxonomy in Australia:
results of the 2016 Survey of Taxonomic Capacity
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The Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS) is committed to facilitating and supporting Australian researchers in the field of taxonomy and systematics. The ABRS has conducted surveys of taxonomic research capacity in 1975, 1991, 2003 and 2016. Here, we present the results of the most recent survey. We found that the number of researchers actively working in taxonomy and systematics has fallen over the years, but that proportionally more women are now working in the field. We also found that the field is supported substantially by retired or honorary researchers, with over a quarter of the workforce in unsalaried positions. This does enable a sustained level of productivity in the field, but also does mask the fact that there are fewer paid positions in the field. A consistent concern of researchers in the field is that of funding, and job security/career opportunities, highlighted in surveys in 2016, 2003 and 1991. Newer concerns highlighted in 2016 were the lack of positions for postdoctoral researchers and beyond, and the way taxonomy is perceived particularly in the context of bibliometrics. Australia has a good representation of researchers in the Arthropoda and Angiospermae, but there are many taxonomic groups for which we lack experts.
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