Ethics of selling

christian thompson cthompson at SEL.BARC.USDA.GOV
Wed Mar 8 16:18:05 CST 2000

>The unethical activity is the use of a common, shared and free resource,
>such as zoological nomenclature, for personal gain.

I FULLY AGREE, but we are not talking about PERSONAL GAIN. Never have,
never will, but are talking about support for Science, the community, etc.

>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).

Maybe in Sweden, but not in USA and most countries* I know. Society is no
longer supporting museums so scientists can provide free services. If the
service doesn't pay, they cut it off.  In the last 10 years we have lost
half our scientific positions. So, I see the University approach of seeking
endowed chairs "through naming opportunities" as an ethical (but perhaps
unrealistic) means to ensure that there will be systematists in the next
generation. So, my argument is with those who do sell names for a mere $500
or $3000. We need lots more and long-term funding.

*Obviously if Germany was supporting its systematists and museums, then
BIOPAT would never have arisen! Biopat isn't about systematists making money
for themselves, but for their science and conservation. I don't believe any
systematist who has named a species for "support," of whatever kind, was
doing it for personal gain. Yes, once the British Museum paid Francis Walker
per the number of new species he described and he responded by describing
too many. But that was short-sighted administrators like the ones we have
today which pay us by the number of papers we publish!

F. Christian Thompson
Systematic Entomology Lab., USDA
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, D. C. 20560
(202) 382-1800 voice
(202) 786-9422 FAX
cthompso at

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