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John C. Kingston kingston at USGS.GOV
Thu Feb 19 12:56:10 CST 1998

As someone who has taken the trouble to certify with the Ecological Society
of America, I feel that a few comments are in order to respond to Les
Watling's interpretation of what ESA (or potential, unrealized taxonomic)
certification is all about. I think certification cannot be forced on the
entire discipline. It is useful because those who are certified have gone
through a peer review by a reputable professional organization and pledged
to adhere to a code of ethics. Both of these features are very important,
and academics in particular do not realize how much they suffer from the
perception that natural sciences disciplines are very loose and ungoverened
by professional bodies. We are compared to Professional Engineers and other
certified professionals in many different contexts, and not having, or not
using, certification processes to our advantage is foolish, in my opinion.

No, I do not agree that ESA certification has not "worked too well." It has
worked very well for me.

John C. Kingston
U.S. Geological Survey
kingston at usgs.gov

Clipped pieces from Les's note:

The Ecological Society of America established a certification process for
ecologists during the heyday of environmental studies in the U.S.  Granted,
it hasn't worked too well, mostly because there is no way to censure the
work done by non-certified ecologists, or at least, no high visibility
cases have been tried where non-certified ecologists were shown to have
shoddy work.  We have seen lately, however, papers getting rejected because
of sloppy statistics.  Parenthetically, one might observe that ecological
papers rarely get rejected because of sloppy taxonomy (does anyone ever
check the identifications in published ecological papers?).

So, how to enforce the certification business.  Well, one way would be to
get the systematic societies who sponsor journals to refuse to accept
unless one of the authors was certified.  This idea would spread because of
the perception of quality work that would be attached to such papers.  In
other words, peer review isn't enough.  International certification would
also mean that all taxonomists would eventually have to be certified.

Is this the solution to abuses of patrimony?  Not really, but it would
ensure that amateur natualists looking for an easy ride wouldn't be able to
so easily bilk innocent donors out of their money.  In a sense its not
really possible to prevent abuses of any system.  What's needed is a way to
discredit abusers.  If loss of certification meant loss of publication
privileges, or non-recognition of self-published work, it would seem that
there would then be a stickw ith some clout.

Anyway, some thoughts.
Best regards,
Les Watling
Darling Marine Center
University of Maine
Walpole, ME 04573
Phone: 207-563-3146 x248
Fax:  207-563-3119 or 207-563-8407
e-mail: watling at maine.maine.edu

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