The Fauna Europaea project has assembled the first extensive taxonomic index on European terrestrial and freshwater animals, which can be accessed via the internet since October 2004. However, if the Fauna Europaea database will not be kept up-to-date with the latest taxonomic and faunistic discoveries it will inevitably become obsolete after a couple of years. Therefore, a future society of Fauna Europaea would be required that will maintain the database and organize continuous updates.
Ideally, the current network of Group Coordinators (GCs) with associated contributing experts would make up the core of active members of this future Fauna Europaea society. Since, there may not be the same possibilities for paying contributors like during the project itself, it was important to assess whether the GCs would like to continue as well as on what conditions.
In order to investigate these matters, a questionnaire was sent out to the GCs in September 2003. It included 9 questions focused on a variety of matters with a special focus on the expected workload and benefits from the society. Also the need or obsoleteness of a network of contributing taxonomic specialists (TSs) was inquired, as well as the possible interest in either overtaking or relegating (parts of) taxon groups.
The complete text of the questionnaire can be viewed in pdf format here.
Out of a total of 64 GCs, just more than half (34) of all GCs responded. Almost all respondents said that they have been satisfied with their role as GC. The overwhelming majority of the responding GCs indicated the desire to continue in the society as a GC. Of course, it will remain uncertain what the interest and motivation of the remaining 32 GCs might be, but if these results are any indication, then the society will be secured a significant number of enthusiastic members.
TS network necessary?
When asked whether they needed to maintain a network of TSs, most GCs (22) said they did. Twelve GCs said they had no need for a network, but 8 of these had none to start with. Some GCs use an informal network of taxonomic experts for consult on an ad-hoc basis, and this could possibly be a model for other GCs to proceed with as well...
The following counts are based on how often certain options were mentioned, not on how many GCs exclusively adhere to that option!
Receival of benefits necessary?
With regard to the questions on expected benefits, many GCs said they would be content with either inexpensive benefits like acknowledgment or authorship (27), or were even indifferent (10). Just participating appears to be rewarding enough in itself. A small minority, however, indicated the need for financial support (5), usually to compensate TSs for contributing data.
Frequency of updates?
When asked how often it will be necessary to update the database with new or adjusted data, an overwhelming majority of the GCs (28) mentioned that once a year or even every three years should be fine. A reasonably large group (15), however, would like to do updates at more regular intervals, at least several times a year, every month or even continually.
Preferred method of data input?
The data input files in Excel format have apparently been successful, as the largest number of GCs (26) prefer to continue working with these in order to do updates. Other GCs (9) are more interested in the online data access as originally set up during the Fauna Europaea project. Others still would like to have a local copy of the database to work with (6).
Expectancy yearly workload?
Generally, GCs expect a very small yearly workload when it comes to updating the data of their groups. A significant number (25) said they needed at most three weeks of full-time work, and most of them (16) less than a week. But again, here too there is an important minority (5) that indicated a workload of more than a month or even several months: It must be kept in mind that some taxon groups are more species-rich than others and thus require substantially more work and support.
In conclusion, we can see that there are several clear signals coming from the GCs:
- Financial or other kinds of compensation for the updating efforts are generally not an issue.
- Commonly, preparing the actual updates is not considered very time-consuming and once a year is enough to do them.
- In order to do the updates, some kind of network of TSs is needed.
- The Excel data file is by far the preferred tool of data maintenance.
After all, compiling a complete database on European land- and freshwater species has been a huge task, but once established, it will take much less effort to update the actual data. Furthermore, the prestige of Fauna Europaea has clearly been an inspiration to many as most GCs have been pleased to take part in the project and to be acknowledged as such.
However, the expert network was not uniform and the tasks of some GCs required considerably more effort than that of others. The voice of the minority, which may actually stand for the greater number of species, should and will definitively be taken seriously.
If you have any comments, questions or suggestions regarding the results of the Group Coordinator Questionnaire please use our contact form.
With special thanks to Fedor Steeman for coordinating and processing this questionnaire.