commercial taxonomy

Gerhard Haszprunar haszi at ZI.BIOLOGIE.UNI-MUENCHEN.DE
Wed Feb 17 11:05:55 CST 1999

Dear Taxacomers,

For more than three years the Zoologische Staatssammlung Muenchen (ZSM) =
honours "big spenders" with patronomies of new species (mainly insects), =
a process which some of you might (wrongly) call "selling". I append a =
text which was (shortened) published 1997 as a "correspondence: =
patronomy pioneers" in Nature (London) 386: 641. Meanwhile about 20 =
patrons have been named, the principles are still the same.=20

Best wishes

Gerhard Haszprunar

Systematics Needs Partnership - the Patronomy-Project at the Zoologische =
Staatssammlung Muenchen

Sir - Recently (Nature 385, 574), Thomas Brooks reported on the =
remarkable case of the newly discovered bird, Vireo masteri, whose name =
has been auctioned by BirdLife International. He welcomed this and =
proposed patronomy as a general strategy for world-wide taxonomy. =
Actually, the Zoologische Staatssammlung Muenchen (ZSM) has been doing =
this for over a year [now over three years] already.
     The discovery of the biosphere, the documentation of fossil or =
extant organisms, is one of the most pressing needs of our time, =
considering the threat mankind poses to natural life world-wide. =
However, whereas the in the USA "Systematic Agenda 2000" is well known, =
in Europe, and in Germany in particular, the public is only now becoming =
aware of this aim. Nevertheless, one point is clear: after decades of =
cutbacks and reductions, biosystematic institutions will, without help, =
certainly fail to fulfil the actual requirements. "Systematic Agenda =
2000" needs partnership. Of course the potential partners want something =
for their money, and we have something to offer - small but eternal =
monuments in the world; patronomies.
     The ZSM, a public research institution of zoological systematics, =
has recently [1996] taken up the ball. In practical terms we do the =
following: after a donation to our supporting society (at present DM =
5,000.- for private persons, twice as much for institutions) and the =
selection of "his/her" animal, the donator gets (1) a formal document =
confirming the patronomy, (2) a formal confirmation of the donation; the =
amount can be offset against taxes, (3) an original graphic of the =
animal (a copy is published), and finally (4) ten reprints of the =
published paper. Documents and graphics are presented at celebration =
events, twice yearly.
     While I realise that the dedication of a species name "just for =
money" might be disagreeable to certain colleagues, I regard this idea a =
matter of necessity, and its introduction is overdue. The idea of =
patronomy is hardly new. Many classic names of species were dedicated in =
this manner, to express thanks and honour the (financial) support of =
research projects, and to encourage the patron to continue making =
donations. Within our project the scientific author also thanks the =
donator for generous support of biosystematic research. I therefore =
believe that it is important for scientists to volunteer for such =
projects. Clearly, rules must be in place to prevent misuse of the =
project. Individual scientists are encouraged, but not obliged, to take =
part in the project, and both the ZSM and the systematists are at =
liberty to refuse sponsorship. Money from, for example, certain =
political groups would be unwelcome. The statutes of the supporting =
society "Freunde der Zoologischen Staatssammlung, e.V." guarantee the =
correct administration of the donations for zoological research and the =
money is solely spent to buy collections or books, to support a =
scientific journey, or to finance urgently needed equipment.
     The patronomy project has been running at the ZSM for over a year =
[three years] now, with an intensive phase during the last four months =
[meanwhile a more or less steady state].  Some of our experiences with =
this project were not originally expected: (1) reports in the press and =
on television are creating rapidly increasing interest among potential =
donators. (2) The media have reacted without exception very positively =
and even, on occasions, with enthusiasm. Through these reports we have =
also been able to raise the level of public understanding of the =
problems of biosystematics and biodiversity research. In my view, =
increasing public awareness is a prerequisite to having a voice in =
politics. (3) The donators (13 [20] to date) are not members of the =
"upper ten thousand", but are members of the general public who usually =
want to dedicate an animal to a loved person; to send them something =
special - can that be unethical?
     Conventional dedications ("honoris causa") should not, of course, =
be replaced but supplemented by the patronomial project, and it should =
be made clear that patronomy in biosystematics must never become a =
dumping ground (as has happened with determination work).
     The first volume [many papers meanwhile] of papers of the project =
"Patronomies" has been published (Spixiana, Supplement 22) and a second =
series will appear in late autumn [1997]. These fulfil our promise to =
the past donators and confirm a serious offer to potential donators. If =
the success of our project encourages colleagues to do likewise - and in =
my view there are enough donators for all systematists - this would be =
more than we could have expected.

Muenchen, 4th March 1997 [now 17th February 1999]
Prof. Dr. Gerhard Haszprunar, Director of the ZSM
Zoologische Staatssammlung Muenchen, Muenchhausenstrasse 21,=20
D-81247 Muenchen, Germany
Tel.: ++4989-8107-104; Fax: ++4989-8107-300
e-mail: haszi at

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