Registration revisited

Doug Yanega dyanega at POP.UCR.EDU
Mon Apr 14 11:33:34 CDT 2003

Richard Pyle wrote:

>I would like to encourage everyone with an interest in the future of
>taxonomy to read the article, consider the implications, and contribute to
>discussion on  if and how such a registration system should be implemented
>such that it would be embraced by the taxonomic and broader biological
>research communities.

Having read the article now, I believe it'd be a distinct improvement
over the status quo if registration of a new taxon name was made
mandatory under the Code, as the authors suggest, though it still
retains one serious flaw that will raise strenuous objections, as it
has in the past: it requires that authors publishing in
non-ZR-indexed venues personally submit reprints so they can be

To me, the most worrisome problem with this isn't that it puts a
burden on the authors - mailing a reprint is generally a trivial
matter, even allowing for occasional huge monographs - but that it
allows for cases where a name has been published and should (by all
existing criteria) be considered valid and available, but, for
whatever reason, never gets entered into the ZR master list. Such a
name would therefore be rendered *invalid*, and no one citing it
would ever necessarily realize this unless they checked against the
master list - but if someone were to then submit the publication to
ZR for indexing (after, say, five years), it would magically become
valid! Aside from confusion, this would raise the possibility of
abuse, where an individual who detects such an "orphaned" taxon name
could, rather than bringing the publication to ZR's attention,
plagiarize the original author's work and become the author of record
simply by being the first to *register* the name. This time delay
between publication and registration would likewise raise the
possibility of two authors independently coining identical new names,
with the one published second being registered *first* - how would
priority then be determined?

Basically, then, while I'm in favor of the proposal (over the status
quo), I'd prefer a system which ensured that publication and
registration were simultaneous, *inseparable* acts, as I've proposed
in the past; this would eliminate all of the objections and messy
scenarios above. I'd therefore modify the proposal as follows, as a
first step: the taxonomic community would, in conjunction with ZR,
designate a certain *very* limited subset of existing journals (those
that meet *the most stringent* criteria, including peer review!!),
and ONLY names published in those journals would be registered, and
therefore *validly* published. One could include a clause to allow
books or other non-serial works to be registered, but such a process
would have to be cleared prior to printing, not post-facto, in order
to ensure simultaneity of publication and registration.

Would this modification improve the odds of the proposal being
accepted, or would people object more strongly to being told they
cannot publish anywhere they feel like (whether it be an established
peer-reviewed journal, a non-reviewed hobbyist publication, or a
self-printed CD-ROM)?


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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