synonymy? by whose application?

Ron at Ron at
Fri Jun 7 19:09:26 CDT 2002

----- Original Message -----
From: "Doug Yanega" <dyanega at POP.UCR.EDU>
Subject: Re: synonymy? by whose application?


> 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.

Doug - Glad you referenced my "demigodal reviewer" remark again.  The
qualifier in that statement was intended to separate this type of reviewer
from the rest - not indict all as demigods.  I think the demigod type are
in reality very few but they are also often very powerful in the clout they
have over others and by extension entire genera and families.

On the face of it, I like the open system you suggest for "review".  But
here we may actually give the power brokers leverage.  Who will disagree
with them publicly.   We rarely use anonymous review in our publication.
Most of our authors know who reviewed their material.  Many choose their
reviewers - no problem - the editor still can accept/reject or get his
other opinions from someone he chooses.  So rubber stamping of bad research
is not a problem.  Some things, like faunal studies, don't need "critical
review" just good editing.  But, I don't have a big problem with "self
publication" either.  To most established reputable researches submission
to review is but a "formality".  They might as well just put it out their
selves and save time and money.  The student and teacher do live in
different worlds and are not equal.

In your system two thing are up for a "vote".  One is to insure that the
submitted taxonomic research is Code compliant - that is fairly cut and
dried and thus objective.   The other is the function of the "review".
Because many experts disagree on what is a genus, subgenus, species, and
especially subspecies, a vote of unanimity can not be expected much less
required.   One would need to have a % rule.  And even in this, the pro
vote should not be one of agreement with, but to probability of.  A double
75% rule :-)   If 75% of the specimens and 75% of the reviewers agree - it
gets subspecific status.

Ultimately, down the line, due to different systematic interpretations,
various things will be moved in and out of synonymy anyway.   There will
always be synonymy by someone's application.   The objective would be to
minimize _new_ synonymy introduced via new descriptions/designations as
much as possible - especially in the frivolous/incompetent type of

One can also run into the too many cooks in the kitchen type of thing that
results in more chaos and/or long drawn out (years of) decision making
process.  We also have to honestly look at how much of a problem exists
today compared to decades gone by.  What is done is done.   But is the
problem still here today - and in all Orders?   If it is no longer broke
then there is no more a need to fix it.  The it being _new_ cumbersome and
unnecessary synonymies.

Ron Gatrelle

PS   The idea of a kid running off 5 CDs and establishing a bunch of
synonyms is very very unlikely to ever happen.  First, the material on the
CD has to be in compliance with the Vol. 4 rules of the ICZN.  Proper
latinization, description, typification, and deposition of types.  All this
means they have to first get a copy of the Code and then know how to do
such a thing.  What are the odds that anyone will actually do that?  If the
stuff on the CD is not Code compliant - it is a moot issue.

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