[Taxacom] FW: Do rogue taxonomists need rogue publishers?
p.kirk at cabi.org
Mon Feb 1 06:09:21 CST 2010
Web 3.0 is the solution ... ;-)
We need to build intelligent bots to deal with these perceived threats. Name registration is the start, data availability is the key. If new names are published (and registered) with less than satisfactory 'metadata' or satisfactory 'metadata' (desriptions, sequences) which can be automatically analysed in real time by our taxonbots which instantly place these 'rogue' names into synonym or into the 'nom.conf./nom.ambig.' dustbin (and subsequent obscurity), and thus are effectively 'hidden' from the portals where people (outside taxonomy) will go for 'correct' information (ALA, EoL, Wikipedia/WikiSpecies etc) where will the incentive be for this activity to continue? These new species, synonymized by Web 3.0 technology in 0.2 seconds, will not look good on ones CV - yes?
Dr Paul M. Kirk
CABI UK Centre (Egham)
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From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Wuster,Wolfgang
Sent: 01 February 2010 11:49
To: Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] FW: Do rogue taxonomists need rogue publishers?
Stephen Thorpe wrote:
> It would be naive to think that you can always make things better by
> solving individual problems. I agree that it would make the life of
> the "good taxonomist" easier if we disregard names by "bad
> taxonomists", but that is not the point. Actually, the situation with
> N.Z. beetles is similar to what you describe - Thomas Broun described
> thousands of them between 1880 and 1923, mostly on single specimens,
> and without a clear notion of variation. Just about all his types are
> in London - accessible, but less so than if they were here. I recall
> seeing a draft key by a now deceased N.Z. coleopterist which said
> "types not seen, identifications based on little more than inspired
> guesswork"! Perhaps it would be easier to disregard all Broun's names
> too, and start again? Then in a hundred years, after the invention of
> new techniques, they can throw out all our present names, and start
> over yet again! The problem is that the "good taxonomist"/"bad
> taxonomist" distinction is not clear cut! ...
Neal Evenhuis wrote:
> Also remember that throughout history, there have been rogues and > vandals in virtually every group of zoology and taxonomy has endured > them, although a few taxonomists may have lost a few years off their > life dealing with them.
I'm afraid I find this combination of perspectives immeasurably depressing. "Vandalism is causing workers in a threatened scientific discipline to waste years of their working lives, but it's always been like that, so deal with it, and nothing will be done to prevent more of the same in the future". Is that really the best we can do? Does that really lead to "standards, sense and stability for animal names in science"?
A few other comments:
Much has been made of issues of "censorship" or "freedom of speech". The problem with the latter is simply that one person's right must be limited where it infringes on the rights of others. In most spheres of human endeavour, your right to freedom of speech is compensated by everyone else's right to ignore you. In taxonomy, we don't have that right. Nowhere else in the sciences can one individual force the rest of the discipline to take notice of their work and use their "product"
without any regard whatsoever to its merit. This makes the issue of freedom of speech in taxonomy a complex and special case.
Second, I would not regard white-listing proposal as either infringing freedom of speech or constituting censorship. After all, everyone is free to continue publishing wherever they like, including species descriptions in their own publication, it's just that the rest of us can then ignore it.
Perhaps other avenues could be explored, such as a kind of "white-listing plus" - in this, white-listed publications would be treated as normal, but the use of names published in non-white-listed would be subject to the discretion of the wider taxonomic community. One could envisage a situation whereby a name proposed in a non-white-listed publication would not automatically fall under the wings of the Principle of Priority until it has been used as the valid name by X authors in N publications, in a manner analogous to Article 23.9. If a name published outside the white list is accompanied by suitable backing information, such as a reasonable diagnosis, type description etc., then one would hope that the vast majority of subsequent taxonomists would have the decency to recognise that intellectual priority (and their failure to do so would certainly be noticed to the rest of the taxonomic community and thus subject to censure). On the other hand, an evidence-free piece of "shotgun taxonomy", describing multiple taxa that the author has never seen in the hope that some of the names will eventually be found to belong to valid, previously undescribed taxa, would not debar a later taxonomist from describing these as new and under a different name. Looking at the works of herpetological taxonomic vandals that I am familiar with, there are certainly some names that have a basis in the personal experience of the author and in evidence, however limited, that I would feel obliged to recognise through use of their name, whereas others are entirely unfounded. This approach would give authors the choice of either publishing in white-listed outlets, or preserving their right to choose alternative avenues, but at the risk of being ignored.
The point of all this is that we should think outside the box. Even if we have to continue to deal with the work of 19th and 20th century taxonomists who published large numbers of unsubstantiated names under the rules of the time, surely that should not oblige us to preserve those same rules for the rest of the 21st century?
Dr. Wolfgang Wüster - Lecturer
School of Biological Sciences
Environment Centre Wales
Bangor LL57 2UW
Tel: +44 1248 382301
Fax: +44 1248 371644
E-mail: w.wuster at bangor.ac.uk
Herpetological Journal: http://www.thebhs.org/pubs_journal.html
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