[Taxacom] Do rogue taxonomists need rogue publishers?

Stephen Thorpe s.thorpe at auckland.ac.nz
Sat Jan 30 14:56:12 CST 2010

Clearly, Wales must be an unusually civilised nation, where people aren't nasty to each other, and where everything and everybody fits into nice, well defined categories! In the rest of the world, some people are forced to publish in the likes of Calodema, because they are blocked from publishing elsewhere due to territoriality on the part of others who have more power. A local taxonomist here was even forced to publish privately, because the "political" situation in carabid taxonomy here is just too "complicated" now (something that several people have remarked to me). I would be very interested to know why independent dermestid taxonomist (who is very good, as far as I can tell) Jiri Hava has been publishing lately in Calodema? As I see it, the problem is precisely that there ISN'T a clear distinction between poor taxonomy and "taxonomic vandalism", nor even between good taxonomy and poor taxonomy - it is all just shades of grey that any good "politician" can manipulate to suit there own agenda. I still doubt the existence of "taxonomic vandalism" - there is no such thing! There are just some people, like Makhan and Hoser, to name two, who simply aren't very good, have poor access to facilities, but nevertheless are determined to make a contribution to taxonomy. One danger with all this is that, at the end of the day, Hawkeswood might end up being seen as the champion of freedom and justice in taxonomy! Read some of the quotes on his website: 
"All truth passes through three stages: first, it is ridiculed; second, it is violently opposed; third, it is accepted as self-evident!" 
- Arthur Schopenhauer
"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds."
- Albert Einstein
"Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom."
- Albert Einstein
All this is somewhat peripheral to the issue of e-only publication, and we can all hopefully agree that there has to be some restrictions on "what counts" in taxonomy, so it is not a complete free for all, but I am just making the point that the issue is a complex one, and peer review as it stands is a highly imperfect system which (1) can be (ab)used to block the work of genuine taxonomists; and (2) provides only a bare minimum in quality control, especially when it is done under time pressure, and/or the author deliberately manipulates the work to appear good on the surface (perhaps this is real "taxonomic vandalism"?)

From: Wolfgang Wuster [w.wuster at bangor.ac.uk]
Sent: Saturday, 30 January 2010 9:56 p.m.
To: Stephen Thorpe
Cc: Bob Mesibov; TAXACOM; Mark Harvey
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Do rogue taxonomists need rogue publishers?

There is a very simple remedy to this problem: restrict new taxon
description to a whitelist of peer-reviewed journals, irrespective
whether electronic or paper. Among the advantages of such a system are:

- it is impersonal - nobody is debarred form publishing taxonomic
papers. After all, if the Makhans, Hosers and Wells & Wellingtons of
this world can get their act together and produce evidence-based
taxonomic papers, then those should be published.

- it does not interfere directly with taxonomic judgement

- availability of names is unambiguously clear - the journal is either
listed as an available outlet or it isn't.

While I am all in favour of allowing e-only publications to be
available, unrestricted avaailability would simply lead to what a
colleague has termed "blog taxonomy". That's not the way taxonomy should
be heading. Of course that would require the world of taxonomy to accept
the notion that vandalism is a problem (and there is a clear distinction
between poor taxonomy and taxonomic vandalism).


Wolfgang Wuster

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

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