Hi, Dr. Rawat ji & Dr. Madhav ji,
There has been lot of discussion on your report & also before this.
I am summarising only important aspects/ views for your kind perusal pl. so these are properly taken care of in your final report.
Burning issue remains the creation of e-flora of India & use of advance modern tools like 'Indiantreepix' e-group for achieving different goals, from the Approach suggested in your draft.
1. From R. Vijayasankar, Systematic Botanist, National Herbarium of Medicinal Plants, Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions (FRLHT)
[Centre of Excellence for Medicinal Plants & Traditional Knowledge], Bangalore-560 064, Mobile: 9448970441
Respected Prof. Madhav Gadgil Ji & Dr. G.S. Rawat,
I wish to congratulate the Task Force team for preparing comprehensive recommendations for revitalization of BSI/ZSI. Thanks for circulating the draft report for public’s opinion.
The recommendations are clear and complete. However, I (in fact thousands of botanists/ plant lovers) wish the following tasks to be given more emphasis as high priority tasks to be executed by BSI, with collaboration wherever possible:
1. An UPDATED ‘Checklist of Flowering Plants of India’ with ADEQUATE details should be published ONLINE without further delay.
2. Floras should also be published electronically (‘e-Flora of India’) and that should be comprehensive in nature and freely accessible to all. For this a dedicated task force, as also suggested by your team, should be set up with expert members from various institutions across the country, under the co-ordination/direction of BSI. To start with state/ regional e-Floras to be prepared/supported by BSI. These collectively can contribute for preparation of e-Flora of India.
3. A NATIONAL LEVEL electronic ‘Virtual Herbarium’ should be developed and REGULARLY updated. All Type specimens, in addition to others, of all Indian plants should be digitized and made accessible to the public.
4. Publication of the reputed ‘Bulletin of Botanical Survey of India’ should be regular and made ONLINE WITH FULL ACCESS. [Only electronic version of papers/articles to be accepted and hard prints (often several hard copies required by different journals) should NOT be accepted, as an effort towards conservation of trees and the environment (will other journals consider this too?)].
5. There are many Ph.D. theses/ reports on district floras and revisionary works remain unpublished. These should be carefully updated and published.
6. Lastly, but importantly, the threat status of native plant species that are facing serious threat of extinction (1000-1500 spp.?) should be QUICKLY assessed in order to identify the PRIORITY species that require IMMEDIATE conservation action.
2. Rajesh Sachdev, Moderator, Indiantreepix
I fully support Vijayshankarji, specially on first two points which are much critical and have larger importance as well.
3. From Dr. E S SANTHOSH KUMAR, Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute, Palode, Thiruvananthapuram-695562, Kerala, India
Kindly add my suggestion to the draft copy under the heading
Capacity building: district level scientific community and barefoot taxonomists
Establishment of a few Systematic Gardens associated with major research institutes/botanic gardens will be beneficial to the students of botany and these will cater their need as a ‘living text book’ for systematic study. Students/amateur botanist can be trained in these gardens.
4. From J.M.Garg, Co-ordinator 'Indiantreepix' e-group
"Flora and Fauna of India
The primary mandate of the BSI/ZSI is to document the plant/ animal resources of the country. Hence an important focus of their activity would be to complete the Flora/ Fauna of India. India has produced a large number of fine taxonomists, many of whom work outside BSI/ZSI, e.g., universities, research organizations and as emeritus scientists. Therefore, it is important that BSI/ZSI now take on the role of coordinating and pooling the expertise of all the taxonomists including those working outside this organization to consolidate the Flora and Fauna of India volumes. This is particularly important because the local field biologists and experts who have spent a considerable amount of time in a particular geographical area can add tremendous information on habitat, associations, biogeography and population status. Floras/ Faunas written by the individuals having limited field knowledge, merely based on the museum/ herbarium specimens lack in such information. Coordinated work on Flora/ Fauna of India should also include all the works on various taxonomic groups done through AICOPTAX Project of MoEF. Such coordination would of course require a strong editorial board and a few full time dedicated executive secretaries. This should be achievable in 10 years and should figure out as Priority I in BSI/ZSI’s Vision 2020 document. This could be achieved in the following phases:
i. Establish a panel of experienced and active taxonomists for each state and take their consent on participation in Flora / Fauna Project,
ii. Prepare an annotated checklist of vascular plants and other taxa under consideration for each state / UTs based on all published documents and herbaria, giving local names, if any, locality and habitat,
iii. Circulate the electronic version of checklists among the panel of botanists/ zoologists who would, in turn, check for omissions, ambiguities, localities and habitat through active consultation with other local botanists/ zoologists,
iv. To begin with, state floras/ faunas should be published electronically giving correct names, basionyms, localities, habitat, sketches and photographs of important species preferably on an interactive ‘Flora/ Fauna of India Blog’. On this page all naturalists, photographers and biological artists should be encouraged to contribute information on taxonomy, distribution, natural history, biology, ethnobiology, etc. This will also act as an outreach programme for all the biologists. The ethnobiological surveys should be done mainly by the local biologists, college and university teachers, working with local Biodiversity Management Committees under technical guidance by BSI/ZSI.
v. An editorial board may be constituted at the national level to decide the format of the flora/ fauna and also assign plant/ animal families for compilation which should include nomenclature, description, ecology, natural history, distribution, sketches and photographs."
I am not clear what it means by ‘Flora/ Fauna of India Blog’ & seek Madhav ji's guidance in the matter particularly w.r.t the word Blog. Also it is not clear whether it will be accessible to all or not. I think any restriction on its access as far as its contents are concerned, should go away in view of the 'Approach' followed in the paper (as subsequently highlighted). While it is encouraging to see
" To begin with, state floras/ faunas should be published electronically giving correct names, basionyms, localities, habitat, sketches and photographs of important species preferably on an interactive ‘Flora/ Fauna of India Blog’. " in the draft, there is hardly anything which talks of creating e-flora of India on the lines of e-flora of China & other neighbouring countries. I feel 'AICOPTAX Project' of MoEF should be sufficiently strengthened with a mandate for simultaneously creating of e-Flora/ e-Fauna of India on lines of e-Floras of different countries of the world. How to go about creating e-floras is evident at link: http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/china/PDF/misc/eFloras_Taxon_55_188-192_2006.pdf
This becomes all the more important as the report in its 'Approach' rightly talks of "......Finally, the culmination of evolution of artifacts to the present day Information and Communication Technology has brought us to the threshold of a tenth major transition: x] Language based human societies –to- Human societies with global access to the entire stock of human knowledge, and engaged in an endeavour of collaborative knowledge generation." This approach will remain an illusion until & unless we are able to create e-Flora/ e-Fauna of India which is accessible to all human community & appear in top 10 while searching as far as 'Indian species' are concerned. The need of the hour is to move fast in this regard, if India is to be visible on the world map. It is said that we have to refer to 'e-Flora of China', 'e-Flora of Pakistan' etc. when we search on net for information about any Indian plant species.We hardly find any inf. on search in our "......national networks like DBT’s India Biodiversity Information Network (IBIN) and NBA’s India Biodiversity Information System (IBIS)." as talked about in the report.
Further if the dreams of its 'Approach' "......Finally, the culmination of evolution of artifacts to the present day Information and Communication Technology has brought us to the threshold of a tenth major transition: x] Language based human societies –to- Human societies with global access to the entire stock of human knowledge, and engaged in an endeavour of collaborative knowledge generation." are to be fulfilled in this e-age, it has to speak loudly about increasing participation & expertise in on-line community activities like those of 'Indiantreepix' google e-group, regarding which it is totally silent. Here information is shared on real time basis for the benefit of all stakeholders, minimising delays & fastening processes, following multi-disciplinary approach with membership from diverse background. This should also help in the process of constant learning in ones' career & creating passionate scientists/ taxonomists aided/ guided by other willing scientists/ taxonomists. This should also help in "Capacity building: scientists" & "Capacity building: district level scientific community and barefoot taxonomists under "7)Human Resources"
5. From Dr. Gurcharan Singh, Associate Professor, Department of Botany, SGTB Khalsa College
University of Delhi, Delhi-110007:
I strongly feel that the vast information lying in hard covers of BSI/ZSI journals, publications, Fascicles of Flora of India, Flora of India volumes, has to come out on the internet so that we may not fend for information and identification, the Efloras of Pakistan, China, North America, etc. There is need for compilation of this information, and I feel there are numerous experts even outside BSI and ZSI who can collaborate. Our Eflora could be much more meaningful with links to authentic identified photographs of plants from India. We have huge databases of photographs on Indiantreepix, Flowers of India and several similar privately managed sites, which can be requested to collaborate and share their data.
For ongoing research on Indian plants it is imperative have have our herbarium specimens (at least representative ones) and type specimens are scanned/photographed and uploaded as virtual herbarium in lines of Fairchild virtual herbarium, Kew virtual herbarium, Australian Virtual herbarium and Virtual herbarium of New York Botanical Garden.
We have to open up if Indian research has to progress
6. From Sh. Prashant Awale, Moderator 'Indiantreepix':
I agree with the Dr Singh ji's view. Also, their has to be some mechanism to get in touch with experts from BSI so that we can share our experiences on flora of a particular region with them and it might turned out to be totally new finding. Many of us are frequently visiting various remote locations and information gathered on flora from these areas might turned out to be of some use to BSI. Some mechanism where by individuals / group can interact with BSI should be available.
Already database like those of "Flowers of India" , "IndianTreePix" has come long way (Thanks to initiave by Mr Tabish Ji, Mr Garg Ji) as more and more enthusiastics from various field (Botanists, Nature lovers, Trekkers etc..) has contributed in some way or other.
7. Dr. Aparna Watve:
Considering all the serious discussions going on so far on various identities, use of family names, I am so happy to realize how thisgroup is slowly maturing. People are discussing technical terms, use of correct family names, below species ranks and nomenclature- things which only the trained plant taxonomists bothered with. Owing to this I feel the need to talk about more use of standard floras and monographs which i had talked of in the past. Relying only on handbooks, which are generally region specific and can have only a limited number of species and descriptions as compared to our vast diversity of flora, is good for beginners. But at this stage, the serious ones on this group - and there are many- should devote time to library and referencing work- not from a single book (as it is not possible) but from various standard references and then form their
opinion on identity of a species. In many cases the taxonomic literature is also influenced by varied opinions of the taxonomists and it is actually fun to read how some plant species have baffled generations of plantwatchers.
8. Dr. Gurcharan Singh:
You have initiated a very valuable topic for the sake of our group and the National Flora. While there is need for nomenclatural and identity uniformity at India level and regional level, unfortunately very little has recently been done at national level, some very good regional publications have come up for us to bank upon, discuss and arrive at a meaningful conclusion. Science today is dynamic process, and it does not take a minute for new information to reach www, for all of us to benefit from. It needs a lot of time for a national compilation to come up.
But then there is a catch. There is also lot of wrong information flying around on the internet, but with so many able minded and sincere people around, we can (and have been) sieve the right information.
9. Janaki Turaga, member 'Indiantreepix'
For a majority of people: it is the question of access. From where does one have access to all these monographs, of which many of us are not even aware of?
Unless someone lists all the monographs and other related works and puts them up for access on the internet which is accessible to all the people in the group.
In absence of accessible knowledge, the key source of information are the fieldguides which are accessible in the lay public domain.
And some internet sites which are maintained by people who are deeply interested in the areas.
Interest groups like this group rely mainly on fieldguides, some good internet sites and very importantly-peers who have built their interest to a very high level and some professionals/subject specialists who sustain the group. I have learnt a lot from the peers in all the groups that I am a member of.
We all would like to take things ahead, but we should have the awareness of and access to these resource.
The issue is that of access and knowledge of the monographs etc.
If some of the subject specialists in this group who do have access to these resources, can make them available to the rest of the group, then I feel a majority of people will benefit.
10. Dr. Rakesh Biswas:
serious reference work one should do in a library. I feel no amount of links and material available on the internet can really at this stage, substitute the research work one needs to carry out from acknowledged authors, volumes of flora of a state or region, wealth of India volumes, and related articals in magazines and scientifc journals.
I wonder if the problem could be simply solved by transferring all the libraries into a web space as most web based user driven learning activists are engaged in doing?
Quoting from the first chapter in this book (which also contains a subsequent chapter contributed by members of Indiantreepix):
Traditionally libraries have been considered as temples of learning and an important requirement for a library user is ‘silence’ which in effect means that the individual user needs to imbibe whatever learning available on his/her own from books or whatever other media available.
However in such an isolated learning environment, the single individual
has no access to a second opinion from another person, no access to a complementary perspective, or external critique, neither does the single individual have any chance to get complementary literature from anyone which might have a different reference library. Given this, there is not much social interaction in this kind of traditional learning environment. (Wiberg 2007)
However in modern libraries it is able to break past this ‘silence’ barrier where the library user predominantly browses an electronic information network rather than a paper based disconnected media.
Unfortunately, this advantage of the modern library is under utilized as even systems for online universities, or distance education may not have adequate support or encouragement for social interaction. Most of these systems assume a centralized communication model in which the learning peers (i.e. the students) mostly communicate with one central peer (i.e. a mentor or advisor). This leads in many cases to communication related to the structure rather than the content of an online education and does not support spontaneous, creative social learning processes. (Wiberg 2007)
What it is to be knowledgeable can be defined either in terms of how much one person has read and learned in isolation, or how knowledgeable a particular person is about different threads to grasp in order to gain access to other peers in different social networks. The latter concept pinpoints the social dimension of learning processes, the social interaction setting, and goes back to a Socratic understanding of knowledge gaining through conversations and argumentations with others.
Learning schools are redirecting the focus from what has been labeled “traditional computer-based learning environments” towards user-driven learning networks supported by social internet based applications. The assumption that computer-mediated learning will occur in the classroom, managed by a teacher, is now being challenged, not by schools and educational software developers, but by the consumer growth of personal technologies. (Sharples 2002)
11. Dr. Gurcharan Singh:
The main topic of discussion here is whether the huge wealth of research information lying in libraries of major Universities, BSI/ZSI is available to the average plant lover are not. Agreed serious researchers need libraries to work, but we are talking of taking knowledge to the general public and what is the best means of making information available to them. I have several volumes of Flora of Pakistan, a few of Flora of India, but please search through your libraries and let me know how many have all volumes of Flora of India published by BSI, how many have volumes Pakistan Flora, and more importantly Flora of China, which has so many plants common with our flora. Contrary to this I can sitting in Delhi, California or anywhere else have access to Efloras, and can identify my plants.
We are aiming to take information to the common man, and www is the best medium for that.
But as I wrote earlier, there is some misinformation on the internet, but there are then also meanins of sieving it. This group has proved that many a times.
There are many important researchers active in BSI/ZSI and different Universities. But the important question is have we all benefitted from that?. WWW is there to pupularise that. Today if I have to find any new research and development in Taxonomy I browse APWeb and always find something new.