Response from NATURE

B.J.Tindall bti at DSMZ.DE
Mon Jun 17 08:27:01 CDT 2002

At 13:26 14.6.2002 -0600, Mary Barkworth wrote:
>Those that do not like Nature's requirement need to not submit papers
>there.  Their policy does no harm and has some positive aspects. I, for
>one, am prepared to accept that it was an attempt to start some movement
>in a desirable direction.
..... but by proposing this particular version, sending publications to the
Linnean Society it also demonstrates that Nature is not supporting
intiatives like the Zoological Record etc and is also adding to the

>I would also like to emphasize a point that some people have made
>earlier, that what we need is some place to rapidly disseminate the
>information that a new taxon has been described in some group, no matter
>where it was described. I, for instance, would be interested in an
>automatic notification when new grass taxa are described, with
>information on where they have been described.
This is what most end users want, particularly those who are not primarily

I am not wanting to have
>the description published centrally, nor even require that the
>legitimacy and validity of the name be checked prior to notification
>being sent out.  Just a simple (relatively speaking) notification
But this is where the "taxonomy for all bit" fails. In order to check
legitimacy and validity of a name you have to be involved in taxonomy. The
type of end users which I am sure "Nature" has in mind are those who have
never read any of the Codes. Then if a name appears on a website which does
not "qualify to be used" and it is not marked as such the "end users" will
use it without knowing. GenBank has similar problems - sequences are
deposited, but it is not GenBank's job to check the primary data, nor is it
their job to keep track of errors. If I deposit a sequence as "belonging to
species "X", but it really belongs to "Y" then it may not be picked up. I
know of several such cases where the species names associated with a
particular sequence are wrong.

For vascular plants, this would seem to be something that could
>be added on to IPNI, if IPNI had the appropriate funding. Determining
>whether a publication meets the requirements of the appropriate code and
>what its date of effective publication was is a separate matter. I think
>that at one time IPNI was planning to add comments on names about which
>there were know to be problems, or that people had inquiries about. Was
>this my imagination? It would be great if we could spend less time
>re-investigating what someone else has already investigated.  Or could
>more easily take advantage of earlier work.

Essentially this is what the "registration" system in bacteriology seeks to
do - exactly these points are checked. In principle the checking is done
within bacteriology, by bacteriologists familiar with the Code - no
external body, no extra criteria - just a simple principle "stick to the
Code and the name can go into circulation." Of course such names have to
appear on an "official list". Botanists and zoologists check names in a
similar way, the only difference is that there would appear to be no
official way of saying "this name has been checked and is okay", so the
name has to be checked independantly by every worker in the area.

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