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

Stephen Thorpe s.thorpe at auckland.ac.nz
Mon Feb 1 21:07:09 CST 2010

Yeah, there are just some practical difficulties that make it not so simple. First, make it broader by substituting the term 'independent' for 'amateur'. The latter term unfortunately has negative connotations which some people in the "professional" camp play up. Personally, I'd turn it on its head and call (some) "professionals" mercenaries, with equally negative connotations! In my experience, if an independent sticks to their little corner, and doesn't do anything outstanding or large-scale, then they are tolerated or even encouraged. But, when faced with opposition:
>A competent amateur can publish in any number of peer-reviewed journals
yes, in theory, but:
(1) there are relatively few journals outside of N.Z. that will publish on N.Z. focussed taxonomy, and within N.Z., there are few people in each area to act as reviewers. For example, I can count on one hand the number of potential reviewers for carabid papers in this country;
(2) there is little that an independent can do in terms of publishing taxonomy without access to types and ("public") collections from the area. Without that, the paper stands little chance of being accepted, and quite rightly so!
So this is how the politics works: if an independent is perceived as a threat by those (thankfully few) institutional taxonomists with fragile egos and "personal agendas", then the independent gets branded as some sort of "taxonomic vandal", and so much fuss is made that the institution blocks the access of the independent to facilities that they might otherwise actually be entitled to under other (nonbinding) agreements, and that is pretty much the end of it ...
The only reason why this is relevant to the issue under discussion here, viz. restricting taxonomic acts to peer-reviewed journals or the notion of a taxonomic 'driving license', is that it provides the unscrupulous faction with more ammunition and sets a precedent that could lead to tighter and tighter restrictions, which would be bad for taxonomy itself, and as everbody knows, the most prolific taxonomists are not those who are currently employed in institutions with endless meetings and administrative distractions, and the funding system (at least in NZ) does not exactly promote prolific taxonomy, as the (lack of) relevant publications over the last couple of years demonstrates, despite more funding that ever supposedly granted for just that purpose (http://www.frst.govt.nz/news/frstnews/oct08#item-11) ...

From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Doug Yanega [dyanega at ucr.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, 2 February 2010 3:30 p.m.
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] FW: Do rogue taxonomists need rogue publishers?

Ed Baker wrote:

>Restricting taxonomic acts to peer-reviewed journals or the notion of a
>taxonomic 'driving license' would possibly discourage some of the thriving
>amateur communities. In many cases amateurs publishing in small, non
>peer-reviewed journals make a significant positive contribution.
>Increasingly for certain groups (in entomology at least) they make the
>majority (or only) contribution. Any changes that affect this would need
>very careful consideration.

No changes that would affect this have been suggested. A competent
amateur can publish in any number of peer-reviewed journals; if it is
page charges that are the problem, many journals do not have them, or
will waive them. A broad enough "white list" will include many
journals of this nature, and - in the event that there is some
particular reviewer for a particular journal who has their nose so
high in the air that they refuse to approve publications by amateurs,
regardless of the actual merits of their work - then (1) there are
other journals free of such elitist reviewers, and (2) a journal with
a conscientious editor should remove such reviewers from their list
of referees, thus maintaining the reputation of their journal.

A major part of this whole dilemma is the gap between theory and
practice as to how peer review works. If it worked as intended, all
the time, there would be little debate. It is up to the taxonomic
community to decide how to deal with this particular issue, but to
say that there is no consensus would be a woeful understatement.


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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