[Taxacom] Species Pages - purpose

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Wed Feb 4 13:39:05 CST 2009

Thomas Simonsen wrote:

>On Wikipedia this could potentially be a problem. However, EoL, AToL, 
>CATE and similar projects are - as far as I know - not open access 
>where everybody can make contributions to everything, you have to be 
>approved first. If online species pages are hosted by acknowledge 
>scientific institutions, organizations and societies, the hosts then 
>voucher for the quality of the pages - much in the same way publishers
>voucher for the quality of paper publications.

It isn't, as far as I can see, simply a matter of access - it's a 
matter of review. There are numerous taxonomists who are crackpots, 
but they are sometimes authorities on their groups, and may be 
resident in prominent institutions; such individuals typically 
self-publish to avoid legitimate peer review, and they presumably 
have access to projects such as EoL, where I imagine they may also be 
free to act without review. Unless I'm mistaken in that respect, 
Wikipedia is possibly as good as, or even better than, some of these 
other resources, because there are potentially thousands of people 
reading a Wikipedia/Wikispecies entry, and thus more likely to spot 
someone trying to sneak something questionable by.

For example, the #2 Google hit for the fish species Rod Page 
mentioned, Chromis circumaurea, is the Wikispecies entry. That's the 
first link a fish taxonomist would probably look at - and fix, if 
there were something wrong with it. Open access ALSO means open 
review; I would argue that allowing anyone to fix a problem is 
possibly more than a fair trade-off.

I know of one taxonomist who self-published a work that has been 
largely rejected by the taxonomic community; all of the genera 
described, and many of the species, were sunk almost immediately. He 
resorted to Wikipedia to promote his work, and found myself and 
others there to prevent him from using Wikipedia as a forum to claim 
the validity of his taxa - because (a) he hoped to conceal the 
existence of the work synonymizing his taxa, and we did not let him, 
since that violates Wikipedia policy against bias, and (b) Wikipedia 
does not allow self-published sources; he was so disruptive that he 
has actually been permanently banned from Wikipedia. In essence, the 
rules defining what constitutes a valid publication in Wikipedia are 
MORE stringent than the rules in the ICZN.


Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314        skype: dyanega
phone: (951) 827-4315 (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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