[Taxacom] FW: Do rogue taxonomists need rogue publishers?
w.wuster at bangor.ac.uk
Sun Jan 31 11:04:51 CST 2010
Frank.Krell at dmns.org wrote:
> Wolfgang Wuster: "The only reason vandals are common in taxonomy [...]"
> Common? The names I heard in these discussions are Hoser, Wells, Wellington, Makhan. Sometimes a Turkish name comes up, just becasue this colleague replaces homomyms without much insight.
> Why is is always the same four names that come up if 'vandals' are so common?
> Wolfgang Wuster "The question is, wouldn’t we be better off learning from
> history, rather than being its prisoner?"
> I personally would prefer not being prisoner of a handfull of people who are declared 'vandals' by some others. I would prefer to maintain the freedom of speach in taxonomy.
Part of the problem is that most of us in taxonomy, myself included,
would rather dealing with taxa than vandals, so not that many people
speak up... I certainly get plenty of supportive emails from within the
herpetological community.... Moreover, I have no idea how common
vandalism is in other branches of zoology.
In any case, irrespective of their numbers, the impact of vandals is
disproportionate. In the first 10 years of this millenium (if we ignore
the purists and count 2000 as a part of the 21st century), out of
approximately 400 snake genus and species-level names created for
snakes, 14% (48/345) of species-group names and 43% (25/58) of
genus-group names were coined in what would best be described as works
of vandalism, in self-published "journals" or in the herpetoculturist
hobbyist literature, often in journals over which the author had
editorial control at the time. OK, that does not sound like the end of
the world. However, I still think that the fact that, overall, more than
18% of described taxa are pure vandalism does not paint a flattering
picture of the world of herpetological taxonomy. This becomes all the
more critical since nearly all the "vandal" descriptions affect high
profile taxa (venomous snakes, large constrictors), in both of which
categories the majority of names are now the results of vandalism.
At the same time, we can also look at the effect that a "white-listing"
approach would have. Out of all the names not published in acts of
vandalism, a grand total of 1 genus, 2 species and 1 subspecies were
published in outlets that I would consider questionable if the issue of
white-listing came up. In other words, sane white-listing that retains a
wide number of standard scientific journals that have historically
published new taxon descriptions would affect ~1% of bona-fide names,
while impeding publication of the 18% of descriptions that are vandalism
and would not survive even the most elementary review process. Moreover,
if such a rule is in place, then those responsible for the non-vandal
description could easily have placed them in more appropriate outlets.
So, in a nutshell, handled sensibly, white-listing would have a
negligible effect on bona-fide taxonomists while appreciably impeding
I appreciate that the situation may be different in other taxonomic
groups, so perhaps similar analyses done for other taxa could also
inform this discussion. I also appreciate that the ICZN has a difficult
balancing act to accomplish, and that no solution will be either simple
or universally palatable. However, this is a problem that I feel
deserves more attention than it is getting, and that the problem will
most likely get worse in view of the increasing ease of publication.
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
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