Valid Publication of New Taxa

Geoff Witten gjw at RMIT.EDU.AU
Wed Feb 26 11:53:08 CST 1997

In reply to JOSEPH E. LAFERRIERE who wrote, among other things..

   As for theses, I believe the prohibition against
publication of new names in phd dissertations is
antiquated and should
be dropped. The existence of international reference
resources such as Index Kewensis and Dissertation
Abstracts suffice to alert the taxonomic community of
the existence and location of the new names, and
facilities such as University Microfilms render the
works every bit as available as any journal. The problem
of course is that theses are not subject to nearly as
severe refereeing as a major journal; hence the
quality control will be minimal at best. ......

and therein lies the rub. Not every thesis becomes a widely read document,
and the problems of priority which would arise years after a thesis has
been initially overlooked would further tangle an already tangled web. I
believe we need to be narrowing the avenues of publication, rather than the
reverse. Oz herpetologists were subjected to a dose of taxonomic vandalism
in the mid 80's which has resulted in a very patchy response from the
taxonomic community. Some of the names created in a shotgun approach of
naming most known populations as species have been recognised. Others have
been wisely ignored entirely, and others are still in dispute and will
probably remain so. Desktop publication is a very real threat to taxonomic
stability, and should be recognised as such.

I am not advocating a cosy professional clique which monopolises taxonomy,
but publication in a refereed journal or book should not exclude competent
workers regardless of their formal professional training.

Geoff Witten
Department of Anatomy and Physiology
RMIT - Bundoora
PO Box 71
Bundoora Victoria 3083
email gjw at
Phone 61 3 9468 2589
Fax 61 3 9467 8589

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