synonymy? by whose application?

Doug Yanega dyanega at POP.UCR.EDU
Fri Jun 7 14:36:17 CDT 2002

Ron Gatrelle wrote:

>  The Codes do not sit as
>Judges of Systematics.  Co-workers do that.   Peer review is simply
>pre-publication assessment by co-workers.

Right. And the main reason for self-publishing is to avoid the
scrutiny of co-workers. It's a *loophole*, and we can close it. Once
a name is in print, even if the taxonomic community unanimously
decides it's a synonym, we STILL HAVE TO CITE AND LIST IT, from now
on, forevermore. We have folks like Soyka, who described some 200
species in one parasitic wasp genus, roughly 20 of which are *not*
synonyms, creating an enormous burden for future generations of
taxonomists and biological control workers (and he got a PhD for his
efforts, since no one who reviewed his work knew anything about the
taxa involved - there's another good incentive for fraud). We have a
system which immortalizes the vain and incompetent. That's not fair
to the rest of us, nor the people who rely on us.

If you agree that peer review is a good idea, then would it not be
even better to have the *entire taxonomic community* review one's
work? Would it not eliminate all post-publication controversy, and a
huge burden of paperwork, if everything was aired out, argued,
discussed, and hammered out flat BEFORE a name was approved?

I say we have the capability - TODAY - to eliminate the secrecy,
cliquism, elitism, and all the other nonsense that you claim to hate,
by opening up the review process *completely* to everyone, so
everyone can see the process in action. You invoke the spectre of a
"demigodal reviewer" and that is exactly the opposite of what I'm
proposing. I'm saying we make the process an open and democratic
debate, let everyone air their concerns, their support, their
rebuttals, and let some Code-savvy arbitrators keep an eye on things
and make a final ruling once the debate reaches equilibrium and the
evidence is in. Whatever you may think of the details, it still sure
as heck would beat the present system. If we'd had a procedure like
this in place over the last two centuries, we wouldn't be dealing
with lists of 50+ synonyms under a single species name.

(P.S. - the requirement for publishing in English is intended to
address the "accessibility" issue, not the "vanity" issue. English
is, I'm fairly sure, the one language common to the majority of
workers in the biological sciences. If a paper is written in
Hungarian, then only a minority among the community can review it or
benefit from it. Certainly this point would be open to negotiation,
as to inclusion of a few other common languages, but I'm shooting for
the "pragmatic ideal", as you noted.)


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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