Ethics of selling

Sven O Kullander sven.kullander at NRM.SE
Wed Mar 8 20:58:33 CST 2000

Appropriateness of names is off-topic. Politicians and wealthy people will
be judged differently in the future and in other nations, and therefore
naming public institutions or other public, especially global, resources
after those persons is of course always inadvisable, Nobel Prize or
Smithsonian Institution. One can discuss ad infinitum whether not Nobel
Prize winners, not least the Peace Prize winners, should not boycott the
Prize because of the way money was gained, especially among us who will not
get it ;-) and what supported Smithson...

The unethical activity is the use of a common, shared and free resource,
such as zoological nomenclature, for personal gain. Stability of
nomenclature is based on the complete and free access to the names, and the
science that produces stability is based on the free access to specimens.
Society has recognised the need for free information flow in science and
generally supports museums with staff providing all kinds of services for
"free" (actually a kind of reciprocal services). Profiting or parasitizing
on this resource, by selling names, may be an easy solution for those not
getting any support at all, but puts a functioning system at risk.

Sponsoring science, with the hope of gaining a species name, seems like a
justified gambling. Anyone is welcome to support me, but *I* decide when
and if I should use a patronym. But when taxa are offered for sale on a
first come first serve basis, usually by NGOs and ecologists, not
systematists, then it brands the science as a pure commercial activity. Is
what your development officer hopes for that all systematists turn into
small companies that name species after people and pay a fee out of the
profit for depositing the required types in the same development officer's
museum? At a price of USD 3000 per name, you only need to name say 3 per
month to make it go round. If 1000 entomologists do the same, it will
probably pay the running cost for 1-2 museums's type collections. And since
all entomologists then are busy with the "new" species, and will not waste
money on museum bench fees to make comparative studies of other types,
noone is going to check the works of the others. Indeed, entomologists will
not be needed, anyway. Anyone can do it quicker and cheaper. So much for
"naming opportunities".

Sven O Kullander

At 14:03 08 03 00 -0500, Christian Thompson wrote:
>Yes, words like "selling" can made fund-raising sound very crude, but that
>is what we are doing when we provide "naming opportunities" [which is what
>one of our development officers calls it]. However, whether that makes the
>activity unethical is another question. Was it ethical for the Swedes to
>accept Nobel's money to redeem his name, now famous for prizes, not the
>explosives that killed?

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