NATURE to save taxonomy!

Doug Yanega dyanega at POP.UCR.EDU
Fri Jun 7 10:23:58 CDT 2002

Bill Shear responded:

>  > At 10:54 6.6.2002 -0700, Doug Yanega wrote:
>>>  (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
>>>  satisfactory?
>I, personally, believe that such odd behavior, which happens in one out of
>ten thousand cases, is a price well worth paying for the freedom to publish
>legitimate scientific names without the interference of an outside
>authority, which could make arbitrary decisions about which names would be
>considered valid and which would not.

Check back a few postings to see the system I was suggesting should
replace the current one. Let me repeat it and clarify it: all new
names would be published via a single source, both electronic and
hardcopy. Publication would be free, registration of names automatic,
and viewing would be free. Authors would all be anonymous, reviews
would all be public, open to EVERYONE in the scientific community.
This does not qualify as "interference of an outside authority" nor
would such a review process lead to "arbitrary decisions". The
criteria for validity would therefore be those of the present Codes
plus the sole additional requirements that they be published in this
one venue, and in English - thereby guaranteeing the integrity (no
more vanity publishing), accountability (no more anonymous reviews),
and accessibility (no more hunting through a hundred journals, or
having to read a hundred languages) of all new taxonomic works. That
seems pretty straightforward to me. There is no "regulation and
registration of names by an entity outside
the taxonomic community" in this scenario: names are regulated and
registered BY TAXONOMISTS.
It also simultaneously addresses every single item on Ron Gatrelle's
list: it eliminates Competition, Duplication, and Fragmentation
(admittedly not "largely nonexistant problems" as Bill implies), and
results in Standardization, Dissemination, and Utilization. UNlike
Ron, though, I see no benefit to addressing each of these items in a
piecemeal fashion over the next decade or two if we can easily deal
with them all at one time within a single year. They're all
interrelated issues, let's treat them that way, and take the short
way through the mountain. I'd be very interested to know exactly what
aspect(s) of the above outlined system Ron sees as so unpalatable
that it would be impossible to implement within a year or so.

>  No, I don't find it satisfactory, and
>ultimately neither would the authors of such names--instead of
>self-aggrandisement (of a peculiarly trivial sort) they would more likely
>achieve lasting infamy among those very people they hoped to impress.
>Take a look at the case of Prof. Dr. Embrik Strand, if you want an example.
>I really don't like this tactic of blowing minor abuses up into supposed
>major problems that we have to overturn the whole system to address.

Actually, I can think of a whole lot more examples than that, not to
mention people who self-publish or use venues such as hobbyist and
trade journals (no peer review) to publish new names of things
ranging from plants to reptiles to butterflies. My tactic is the
"ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" tactic, nothing more.
Within the last 5 years the ability to self-publish new taxon names
has been TOTALLY revolutionized because people now have home CD
burners, and the newest Code now legitimizes CD publication. I want
to close that loophole BEFORE any serious abuse starts. If someone
breaks a window in your home, you don't leave it unrepaired simply
because you think it will be a while before any criminals come by,
notice, and climb in ("...and besides, 9 times out of 10 they're just
vandals and don't do any real harm"). That's just ONE of the problems
I'm talking about addressing, too, and I never claimed it was the
most important. But if we can deal with it, let's do so.


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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