[Taxacom] FW: Do rogue taxonomists need rogue publishers?

Paul Kirk 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)
Bakeham Lane
TW20 9TY
United Kingdom

Telephone: +44 (0) 1491 829023
Fax: +44 (0) 1491 829100
Email: p.kirk at cabi.org
Visit us at www.cabi.org; www.indexfungorum.org

Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail

CABI improves people's lives worldwide by providing
information and applying scientific expertise to solve
problems in agriculture and the environment

-----Original Message-----
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
Bangor University
Environment Centre Wales
Bangor LL57  2UW
Wales, UK

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

Gall y neges e-bost hon, ac unrhyw atodiadau a anfonwyd gyda hi, gynnwys deunydd cyfrinachol ac wedi eu bwriadu i'w defnyddio'n unig gan y sawl y cawsant eu cyfeirio ato (atynt). Os ydych wedi derbyn y neges e-bost hon trwy gamgymeriad, rhowch wybod i'r anfonwr ar unwaith a dilëwch y neges. Os na fwriadwyd anfon y neges atoch chi, rhaid i chi beidio â defnyddio, cadw neu ddatgelu unrhyw wybodaeth a gynhwysir ynddi. Mae unrhyw farn neu safbwynt yn eiddo i'r sawl a'i hanfonodd yn unig  ac nid yw o anghenraid yn cynrychioli barn Prifysgol Bangor. Nid yw Prifysgol Bangor yn gwarantu bod y neges e-bost hon neu unrhyw atodiadau yn rhydd rhag firysau neu 100% yn ddiogel. Oni bai fod hyn wedi ei ddatgan yn uniongyrchol yn nhestun yr e-bost, nid bwriad y neges e-bost hon yw ffurfio contract rhwymol - mae rhestr o lofnodwyr awdurdodedig ar gael o Swyddfa Cyllid Prifysgol Bangor.  www.bangor.ac.uk

This email and any attachments may contain confidential material and is solely for the use of the intended recipient(s).  If you have received this email in error, please notify the sender immediately and delete this email.  If you are not the intended recipient(s), you must not use, retain or disclose any information contained in this email.  Any views or opinions are solely those of the sender and do not necessarily represent those of the Bangor University.
Bangor University does not guarantee that this email or any attachments are free from viruses or 100% secure.  Unless expressly stated in the body of the text of the email, this email is not intended to form a binding contract - a list of authorised signatories is available from the Bangor University Finance Office.  www.bangor.ac.uk


Taxacom Mailing List
Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu

The Taxacom archive going back to 1992 may be searched with either of these methods:

(1) http://taxacom.markmail.org

Or (2) a Google search specified as:  site:mailman.nhm.ku.edu/pipermail/taxacom  your search terms here
The information contained in this e-mail and any files transmitted with it is confidential and is for the exclusive use of the intended recipient. If you are not the intended recipient please note that any distribution, copying or use of this communication or the information in it is prohibited. 

Whilst CAB International trading as CABI takes steps to prevent the transmission of viruses via e-mail, we cannot guarantee that any e-mail or attachment is free from computer viruses and you are strongly advised to undertake your own anti-virus precautions.

If you have received this communication in error, please notify us by e-mail at cabi at cabi.org or by telephone on +44 (0)1491 829199 and then delete the e-mail and any copies of it.

CABI is an International Organization recognised by the UK Government under Statutory Instrument 1982 No. 1071.


More information about the Taxacom mailing list