instant publication

Doug Yanega dyanega at POP.UCR.EDU
Wed Apr 26 10:38:52 CDT 2000

Luis Diego Gomez wrote:

>The example of the pet trade magazines where revisions or new species are
>sometimes published is a good one. In Botany, one sees often names of new
>taxa published in, say, orchid magazines, journals of plant societies e.g.
>Principes for palms, bromeliads, etc. mixed with travel accounts and
>horticultural aspects of the trade.
>Peer review, although highly recommended, does not guarantee of necessity
>"good taxonomy" . However, it may be helpful for an author to reconsider
>potential new taxa in the light of other experts pronouncing about them.

That assumes the author's intentions are good. Those, like myself, who are
concerned with abuses of the system are worried about authors whose
intentions are NOT good. I could go on eBay RIGHT NOW, post digital photos
of 25 Brazilian butterflies, and auction off the names to complete suckers.
I could then print off 50 copies of a book in which I describe them all as
new species, send a copy to each sucker (in additional to 25 libraries),
plus his/her officially-designated holotype to hang on the wall. The
scientific community would be left to clean up my mess and synonymize all
the names, and I couldn't be sued by the suckers who paid me, because the
names WOULD exist permanently - junior synonyms are just as immortal as any
other name. Would you care to bet that species names will not be for
auction on eBay within the next few years? I could also be a butterfly
dealer, who decides to describe a few new species simply so I can sell my
merchandise as being new species (thus very expensive), and I'd have
*almost* as good a defense should I be sued. Requiring peer review would
eliminate the most egregious forms of abuse such as this.
        Sure, people published vanity books in the 1800's, as Brian Jones
pointed out, which we have to deal with. That doesn't make it desirable to
allow the practice TODAY. It is no longer necessary for ANY taxonomist to
resort to vanity publishing in order to disseminate their work - valid
peer-reviewed publication can even be done on CD-ROM, as Chris Thompson
mentioned, no page charges required. I just don't see how it does science a
*disservice* to require peer review - what legitimate taxonomy will be
prevented by doing so? What legitimate argument is there AGAINST peer
review? Allowing unreviewed taxonomy is like allowing voters to vote as
many times as they want in an election - many people will indeed act
responsibly and vote once, but all it takes is a few cranks who stuff the
ballot boxes to wreck things for everyone else.
        We are *vulnerable* to this kind of abuse, even if it happens only
rarely at present. I'm concerned, nonetheless - heck, the simple existence
of Biopat ( is a sign that people are aware they can use
taxonomy to raise money, by appealing to vanity. If Biopat is succesful,
which seems likely, then we probably have only a short time before this
legitimate enterprise spawns *illegitimate* copycats (the general public
will NOT know the difference), and when *those* outfits start making money,
watch out. I don't think we should wait until they DO exist before we act
to prevent them from doing their damage, but, like Chris says, "many
zoologists want to retain the freedom to publish what ever they think is
science" - without thought of how OTHERS can abuse the loopholes they
insist on leaving open. Why? Why do we *need* the freedom to publish
without peer review?


Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California - Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521
phone: (909) 787-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
  "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
        is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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