thesis publications

Doug Yanega dyanega at DENR1.IGIS.UIUC.EDU
Mon Mar 3 09:52:07 CST 1997


Joe L. wrote:

[snip]
>She obtains a doctoral
>dissertation grant  from the  National Science  Foundation so
>she can  travel to  West Kalimantan  to gather  new material.
[snip]
>   Tragically,  Erika  dies  a  month  after  completing  her
>dissertation, from  the rare  strain of  cerebral malaria she
>contracted during  her fieldwork.  Thus her  new species  are
>never published in a journal.

I don't think this is the scenario most of us are worried about, Joe - what
people are concerned with more is probably along the lines of the following:
"Erika completes her dissertation in the year 2000, which under the new 2000
ICBN rules validates all the names included therein. The thesis does not
appear in *any* literature databases, let alone in Biological Abstracts, so
no one outside of Erika's immediately circle of advisers and co-workers is
aware of its existence, and they work on other taxa entirely and have no
reason to ever cite her thesis. Upon submitting a manuscript version to a
major journal, wherein she lists her thesis in the bibliography, she is
informed that the manuscript will not even be sent out for review because
the material is already considered published under the new ICBN rules. She
plans to expand on her project, then, but NSF rejects her application
because she has produced no peer-reviewed publications in her career. Erika
dies from malaria a month later, her thesis is read and cited by no one, and
a year after that someone else independently publishes on the same taxon in
a major journal, recognizing and giving new names for all of Erika's
species, which then come into popular use. 20 years later, when the new
names are firmly entrenched in the literature, someone stumbles across
Erika's thesis by accident in her University's library, but petitions to
suppress all of the names therein and succeeds."

>   The complaints against consideration of either theses such
>as Erika's  or minor publications such as Pamela's seem to be
>twofold:
>
>1) Difficulty of access to obscure literature, and
>
>2) The fact that many names coined in them may be synonyms.

3) The fact that people's careers rise and fall based on their production of
peer-reviewed publications, and unpublished theses count for next to nothing

4) The fact that theses are not included in literature databases and their
existence (let alone their content) is therefore virtually impossible to
discover without first-hand knowledge.

If you can guarantee that the entire scientific community will happily alter
its perspective (so #3 is no longer an issue), and convince the people at
all the world's databasing and abstracting services to start obtaining
copies of every thesis written anywhere (so #4 is not a problem), then I
think you might find people more willing to agree with your proposal. I
don't think anyone has argued that the present rules are perfect, or that
they cannot lead to ironic scenarios such as you envision, but changing the
rules to include theses is quite likely to create more problems than it solves.

Sincerely,
Dr. Douglas Yanega
Depto. Biologia Geral
Univ. Federal de Minas Gerais
Caixa Postal 486
30161-970 Belo Horizonte, MG, BRAZIL
(031)-448-1223




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