RE: birding-aus Knowledge Gaps & HANZAB

To: "Atzeni, Michael" <>
Subject: RE: birding-aus Knowledge Gaps & HANZAB
From: David James <>
Date: Fri, 12 Nov 1999 09:19:01 +1000
This is a longish rave about why I think HANZAB is the resource that
Michael Atzeni was asking for.

At 13:53 11/11/99 +1000, MA wrote:
>Let's be realistic - you're rank and file birder and casual observer are
>never going to own much more than a field guide or two.  HANZAB is a
>valuable reference for researchers and keener birders, but its cost is
>prohibitive and it's certainly not the way to disseminate the gaps in our
>knowledge to the broader birding community.  
>I'm suggesting another stimulus would be a summary of the knowledge gaps,
>preferably with the actual text about the bird so it's there in your face -
>you don't have to look any further, e.g. Regent Honeyeater - Knowledge gaps:
>non-breeding distribution, breeding records, PLEASE CONTACT so and so.

>It doesn't have to take up much
>space and it would help put field observations in a far better context,
>maybe even encourage people to take a bit more notice in general and
>hopefully, they'll report it.   Until then, what incentive is there to
>report such information, let alone document it in newsletter articles or
>scientific papers?

I suggested that HANZAB actually attempts to fill the role that Michael
suggested was needed for identifying knowledge gaps in ornithology. 

I concede that HANZAB is expensive, and what's worse is that it is huge and
very difficult to read. Sure, its not portable, its not finished, its
not... perfect.

On the other hand, its a huge ask - let me say this again, a HUGE ask - to
have a reference that identifies knowledge gaps. To get such a document you
first need to know what is known, and nobody does know all that. The
literature on Australian birds is enormous. HANZAB is compressing that
literature to maybe 1% or a few % - references in many languages and from
incredibly obscure sources. Even so, HANAZAB misses some. 

I see HANZAB as having two roles: 
1). to document what is known.
2). to identify knowledge gaps (if it is not in HANZAB you can assume it is
not known).

As Michael is aware, it is almost impossible to even write a little
newsletter note because you can't be sure of accessing all the literature
(some published in French or German, some in rare books, some a century or
more old) to find out what is known and what is not. HANZAB is
changing/will change all that. a team of editors is trying to dig up,
summarise and analyse everything that has been published. It has been
described as a complete library of the literature on Australian birds,
which is a quite an overstatement, but you get the idea.  

HANZAB won't cover the concept of "describing knowledge gaps without taking
up much space". I don't think this is an option at this stage. Knowledge
gaps are endless. So to define them you have describe existing  knowledge. 

When hanzab is finished it might be produced as a 2 volume concise handbook
(like BWP). Or it might be put on CD thereby reducing the cost. Or it might
go on the web, or be available as a brain implant! paperback monographs on
penguins and raptors are already published. Maybe some genius will work out
how to compress  the information, turn it inside out and make it instantly
understandable for anyone. But at this stage in history, expertise still
comes from hard yakka. If you want to swim you have jump in. The current
stage of HANZAB is a foundation stone, and overtime, after a few rebirths,
it may retrieve bird knowledge from the realms of the unfathomable to the
realms of accessibility (lets hope).

If you seriously want access to bird information then you should consider
getting HANZAB or lobbying your local library to get it. Yeah Yeah, you
still think its too expensive, but that's just the way it is. Just be aware
that Birds Australia is paying for the research, writing and editing, you
just have to pay for the paper and the publishing. Its a good deal, believe
One last caveat, HANZAB is not perfect, its full of mistakes and
misinterpretations, but its as good as it gets, anywhere in the world.

David James
PO BOX 5225
Townsville Mail Centre,
Qld 4810, Australia

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