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Beltsville Systematics Summit
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1 November 2002

A distinguished panel of scientists and stakeholders, chaired by Dr. Peter Raven of the Missouri Botanical Garden, was convened at the Beltsville Area Research Center (BARC) to develop a long-term plan to build capacity for systematics research and biodiversity resources of critical importance for agriculture. The panel included representatives from the Smithsonian Institution, other federal agencies, academic institutions, and non-government organizations.

Representing a diverse constituency, the group recognized that fundamental systematics research in agriculture and related areas is a federal responsibility, and that ARS and BARC have unique resources both in personnel and collections.

>These resources are not replicated in the public, academic and private sectors.
>Further, ARS and BARC play a vital and irreplaceable role in the systematics of megadiverse groups, including insects, fungi, nematodes and animal parasites.
>Specimen-based collections at BARC represent global resources and are critically important infrastructure nationally and internationally.
>The panel also concluded that BARC exists in an environment where great synergy is possible with the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Maryland.

Deliberations focused on the vital role of systematics in addressing the current challenges posed by invasive species, biosecurity, pest management and control, regulatory/ quarantine activities.

The panel outlined the hierarchical process

>that will serve as the model for building and implementing a short term foundation (3-5 years) and
>that will serve as the basis for realizing the long-term vision for a systematics program (10-15 years).

The discussion also addressed the resources that will be necessary for long-term development and maintenance of research collections

>expansion of molecular-based and integrated research
>databasing and informatics
>education and training
>permanent facilities, and
>rapidly emerging needs in a problem-solving environment.

Web resources associated with the Systematics Summit are available here to provide background for this highly successful meeting. Over the coming weeks and months we will develop a series of integrated planning documents outlining a vision for a BARC systematics research program that is long-term, proactive, predictive and maximally responsive to an array of challenges to agriculture, society and the environment.