18th Century mentality in the 21st Century

Thu Nov 15 15:22:09 CST 2001

>>>>From: Doug Yanega [mailto:dyanega at POP.UCR.EDU]
Though this is probably an unpopular thing to say, I believe it is
absolutely necessary, for the future of our science, that we either
establish or designate a single agency which will act as THE universal
nomenclatural clearing-house; this will be the SOLE agency with which all
new names must be registered, and it must also be empowered to review,
publish, archive, and disseminate new *electronic* taxonomic works (in
addition to the registration and archival functions of external
publications). Done properly, this could be accomplished without even
requiring authors to pay fees, and by simple natural selection would likely
become the *primary* place for all new names to be published. Wouldn't you
prefer to publish in a free journal which could make your work available to
everyone on the entire web within 2 days of receiving the referee's final

That's a fine and noble thought, Doug, and I agree wholeheartedly in theory.
But who's going to pay the bills?  The ICZN/ICBN are essentially a bunch of
volunteers who establish policy and pass judgement in their spare time.  To
have an organization empowered to do what you suggest will require several
full-time (i.e., paid) staff (editors, webmasters, clerical staff), an
internet site (computer and access, both of which cost money), supplies for
archives, staff and supplies for upgrading those archives each time
technology moves on, etc., etc., etc.  Who pays for all this?  The reason
print journals have page charges and subscription charges is because it
costs money!  Where does this money come from?  An analogy to what you
propose would be the UMich dissertation abstracts.  Rest assured, the
University is providing significant funds to pay for the archiving and
dissemination of theses.  Who's going to pay for an umbrella systematics
organization?  Government?  Sure, till they need to balance the budget next
year.  A dedicated organization that must apply for philanthropical grants
every year or two?  That's great, until the granting agency decides "the
arts" need a boost this year.  A "tax" on scientists (or just biologists, or
just systematists)?

And if this single nomenclature "company" (I use the term loosely) goes
belly up in a recession/depression, what happens to the data?  My
department's library has a whole slew of issues of extinct journals, and we
get frequent requests to borrow them to read.  The publication may be dead,
but at least there are still copies to be read.  There are lots of
scientific organizations that have followed (or preceded) the Passenger
Pigeon!  What happens if we "put all our eggs in one basket", as the saying
goes, and expect the basket to find its own funds?  One bad economic
downturn and our archives could evaporate.

I see this as skepticism, not as "antiquated mentality".

Robin K Panza                         panzar at carnegiemuseums.org
Collection Manager, Section of Birds          ph:  412-622-3255
Carnegie Museum of Natural History       fax: 412-622-8837
4400 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh  PA  15213-4008  USA

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