China Searches for an 11th-Hour Lifesaver for a Dying Discipline

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Science  03 Jul 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5936, pp. 31
DOI: 10.1126/science.325_31

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Taxonomy is in decline around the world. But although the situation is just as grim in China, the country's dwindling band of taxonomists has one of their own in a powerful position: President Chen Yiyu of the Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), a taxonomist who majored in systematics and biogeography. In 2002, NSFC, the country's basic research grants agency, set up a classic taxonomy fund, which has thrown a $500,000-a-year lifeline to established taxonomists. But that's not enough, Chen acknowledges. To prevent Chinese taxonomy from slipping into oblivion, NSFC has invited applications for a pair of 4-year initiatives, to be launched in 2010, that aim to better integrate the field with molecular biology.