Publication when public policy makes specimens unavailable

Barry Roth barry_roth at YAHOO.COM
Thu Jun 7 16:42:06 CDT 2001


I happen to be the editor of a journal specializing in mollusks.  The journal's policy is quite rigorous about the deposit of voucher specimens for various kinds of studies, along lines discussed on this list in the past.  Journal policy also insists that at least representative specimens for Recent or fossil faunal lists be deposited in publicly accessible collections, where they will be available for examination by interested workers.  To me, this represents nothing more than accountability -- in effect, making the experiment (of identifying a fauna's component taxa and drawing conclusions therefrom) replicable.

Recently a manuscript was submitted that did not specify a repository for the fossil samples that it reported.  On inquiry to the author, I learned that the specimens were collected in an administrative unit (a county in southern California) that will not let specimens be deposited in institutions outside the county.  However, according to the author, there is no institution to curate the collections within that county; and at present all such collections are being sent to a warehouse where they are not cared for (and reportedly some have been destroyed by neglect).

What do list members think about the following propositions:

(1)  In the interest of unfettered scientific publication, in a case like this a journal should relax its standards regarding deposited specimens, hoping that at some future time a satisfactory repository can be found.

(2)  A journal should adhere to its standards, and the county policy makers should be informed that their stance is inhibiting the scientific publication of findings based on specimens from their jurisdiction.

(3)  Some combination of the above ... or a middle ground (e.g., representative specimens should be illustrated for all taxa).

I will be very grateful for any thoughts, advice, reports of similar experiences, etc.


Barry Roth

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