[Taxacom] new nomina nuda (was Re: e-only taxonomic publicat

Stephen Thorpe s.thorpe at auckland.ac.nz
Fri Feb 12 18:26:20 CST 2010

Doug wrote: 
>The point is not about injustice
but previously wrote:
> it is indeed a sobering thought that serious taxonomists doing serious research for the advancement of science - and publishing in a premier journal - should be told that their taxon names are worthless, while those who are self-publishing inferior work solely for self-glorification have their names immortalized, simply because they had access to a printer and some paper

Then I apologise for misreading "the spirit" of injustice in your emotive and outraged-sounding words above!

An author or editor who disregards the rules is no better than Makhan or whoever keeping to the rules but disregarding the "spirit" (=recommendations). Makhan et al. "work to rule" as a reaction to having been marginalised by the taxonomic community (whether they are pathologically disposed to being so marginalised is another matter).

Rules can always be seen as arbitrary. If you sleep with someone on the day of their 16th birthday, you might get some funny looks, but nobody can touch you for it, but if it was even just one day before their 16th birthday, then you are a criminal likely to end up in jail! It isn't the rules in themselves that matter, but the system they help to create, and there will always be some unfortunate consequences of any such system ...

I don't think anybody opposes the digitisation of taxonomic literature, and I doubt anyone would object to a rule requiring electronic copies of new publications to be posted on the web, preferably open access*! What some people object to is the abandonment of paper as a backup...

*Yes! In fact I suggest this as a formal ICZN rule: no new taxon name is available unless an open access electronic version of the publication is posted on the web! :)


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: Saturday, 13 February 2010 1:00 p.m.
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] new nomina nuda (was Re: e-only taxonomic publicat

Stephen Thorpe wrote:

>I think your point needs rewording so as to reduce "loading"
>content! The reason that Makhan's names count and the mecoptera
>names in Science don't is perfectly fine: Makhan followed the rules
>of Zoological Nomenclature, but the Mecoptera publication violated
>them (which was the fault of the editors in this particular case,
>not the authors).

The point is not about injustice, but the arbitary nature of the rule
in question: "printed on paper". A colleague pointed out to me at
lunch today - quite correctly - that it is entirely possible for a
work printed on paper to have no surviving copies and, as such,
represent exactly the "nightmare scenario" referred to by many of
those opposing digital publication. We can lose all copies of an old
printed work more easily, in fact, than all copies of a new digital
work, so using the "loss of existing copies" argument is a red
herring (it should also be obvious, ironically enough, that the major
initiatives struggling to salvage old, disappearing print works are
all doing so by converting them into digital formats! Or does someone
here intend to argue that converting printed works into digital
format only guarantees that they will be lost forever?).

As an ICZN Commissioner, I'll point out the following, which should
be obvious, but has maybe been lost in here somewhere: the Code is
full of recommendations, which - taken in conjunction with the actual
"rules" - establish a framework of what is proper and ethical
practice in nomenclature. Authors such as Makhan *violate* these
recommendations constantly, deliberately, while making sure to
satisfy the *rules* - they defeat the *spirit* of the Code, as they
are fully aware (since they have a copy of the Code in front of them)
that they are acting contrary to what the authors of the Code
indicate is the proper way to act. Maintaining this separation
between the rules (ostensibly objective criteria), and the
recommendations (ostensibly subjective criteria) is understandable in
a philosophical sense, but the practical implications can be
*counterproductive*, especially in public perception. Why is "printed
on paper" not a recommendation? Why is "primary types made freely
available for examination by other specialists" not a rule? Surely
the latter is far more important for genuine nomenclatural stability?


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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