NATURE to save taxonomy!

Doug Yanega dyanega at POP.UCR.EDU
Thu Jun 6 10:54:05 CDT 2002

Bill Shear wrote:

>Despite a few strident voices, I think the vast majority of practicing
>taxonomists are pretty well satisfied with how the system presently works.

As one of those strident voices (I suppose), let me ask:

(1) Do you, personally, believe in allowing people to self-publish
new taxa, virtually all of them synonyms, solely for purposes of
self-aggrandizement? The Codes allow it. Do you really find this

(2) Since when are "practicing taxonomists" the ONLY people whose
work is affected by the actions of the taxonomic community? I'm sure
it's NOT your intent, but phrased the way it is, your comment could
be read as implying that taxonomists have no responsibility to those
outside the community. Obviously, nothing could be further from the
truth. EVERY SINGLE WORK in the entire history of the biological
sciences ultimately links to the names of the organisms involved.
That puts a tremendous burden on us - as "Keepers of the Names," if
you will - a burden that we, as a whole, are clearly NOT bearing to
everyone's satisfaction. We could, if we bit the bullet and made some
changes. Certain subsets of our community may be doing a good job,
but others are not (this definitely qualifies as "fragmentation,"
most of it based on taxon). Of course, what NATURE has proposed as a
response to this problem actually does nothing *practical* to address
any of this (especially since the only species descriptions I've ever
seen in there are for extinct organisms or new phyla).

Neverthless, despite a need for us to be responsive to outsiders,
what we don't need is outsiders imposing their standards on us. WE
should be the ones who set the rules, and they should be above

I argue that we need to develop and implement - SOON!! - new and
explicit standards that apply to all taxonomic disciplines equally;
standards of integrity, of accountability, of accessibility.
Standards that are NOT part of the Codes, but should be. If they
were, we wouldn't have things like this NATURE nonsense slapping us
in the collective face.



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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