Shabby latin again

Riccardo Sciaky sciaky at IMIUCCA.CSI.UNIMI.IT
Fri Dec 20 15:57:22 CST 1996

Dear Taxacomers,
        like R. Fagerlund I am an entomologist and therefore certainly not
so familiar with the Botanical Code, but I would like to write some remarks
on the subject. It is perfectly true that "Taxonomy should be fun, not
tedius and trivial", as Fagerlund writes, but unfortunately some people do
not practice taxonomy in a way that is fun for them and useful for others
at the same time.

I have seen works with descriptions of new species that seemed (and
probably were) written only with the aim of having some more papers
published and some others written only for selling paratypes of the new
forms. In all these case the new forms were such only because the authors
said so, not because the diagnoses allowed to recognize any difference.

This is certainly not a good way of "making science" and should be
disagreed by all serious scientists. Going back to the description that was
the cause of this discussion, it is certainly a very incomplete one, the
latin was disgusting and I do not approve the editors that allowed such a
bad paper to be published. But when I knew that it was by someone working
in a small Chinese university I started understanding. I have the same
problems with Chinese researchers working with Coleoptera Carabidae (the
group I study). Some of them publish on small periodicals without referees
(or even in self-published books) descriptions in Chinese of new species
with no comparisons, no drawings and only a short English diagnosis which
does not allow to understand anything. When, in few cases, I have been able
to see the types, I realized that the subgenus was wrong and that the
species had been known since the last century.

What does this mean? In my opinion that these people work ignoring much of
the literature and that they simply describe what they see for the first
time. The fact that sometimes these descriptions are acceptable for the
Code does not imply that this is a good way of making science. So, it is
not only the fact that the Latin diagnosis is very poor (this problem does
not apply for us zoologists), but also that the description is not careful

Something I think that a new code should limit drastically the number of
periodicals on which new "nomenclatural acts" can be published, so we could
have a better control on the new descriptions. There have been discussions
on the role of the referees, but certainly a referee would prevent some
work to be published, saving us a lot of time trying to see types and to
synonymize wrongly described species.

Well, after all these words, I will keep on studying my Carabidae, that is
the thing I like most.

Good solstice or merry Christmas to all of you!

                Riccardo Sciaky

Riccardo Sciaky
Via Fiamma 13
20129  Milano
sciaky at

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