Taxonomy at a crossroads
Department of Sociology, County College South, Lancaster University, LA1 4YD, UK
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A team of sociologists and anthropologists of science and technology from Lancaster University in collaboration with the Botany Department at the Natural History Museum, London, inspired by contemporary innovatory research in the science of taxonomy, initiated an interdisciplinary research project in July 2006. See original research bid»

As a partner in the research, the Natural History Museum is itself a site of taxonomic innovation and is closely linked to national and global barcoding Consortiums. It is also recognised for its innovative approach to public engagement and maintains strong links with science and biodiversity policy domains. Thus, by working together, social scientists at Lancaster and natural scientists at the Natural History Museum are able to draw on and contribute to contemporary sociological and anthropological studies of science and connect directly with the taxonomic science and biodiversity policy communities.

"Taxonomy at a Crossroads" is a sociological and anthropological study of a real-time shift in the taxonomic sciences. It developed from a recognition that, in scientific, social and cultural terms, the taxonomic community are presently undergoing a series of quite fascinating changes. The project focusses in particular upon the implications the introduction of new DNA Barcoding techniques might have for the taxonomic, public and biodiversity policy communties.

Innovation, uncertainty and debate are hardly recent introductions to the world’s taxonomic community. Indeed, since the 18th century, this scientific discipline has been fuelled by discussion about the scope and limitations of new methods, new technologies and new applications of research findings.

Sociologists, anthropologists, historians and philosophers of science have, for centuries, been perplexed and fascinated by human practices of classifying the world. Classification, it has been argued is a quintessentially human activity and thus encapsulates elements of human culture. Social scientists in particular, explore ways in which the methods and products of different classificatory practices, tell us as much about human culture and society as they do about the natural world. The project is designed to contribute both to the sociology and anthropology of science and to the taxonomic sciences themselves.

Our Partners

Lancaster University

Natural History Museum

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