[Taxacom] ICZN procedure question

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Thu Nov 11 14:58:14 CST 2010

call me cynical (surely not!), and sarcastic, but I find the issues relating to 
e-only publication somewhat intriguing, and  I suspect that it is largely being 
driven by economic and "political" factors, even if some of the main players are 
playing a tactical game, possibly going so far as to vote against the proposal 
after making sure that there will be enough support for it to go through anyway! 
It seems to me that publishers would get decreased overheads and so increased 
profits from the proposal being passed, but a counterargument I have heard is 
that most of their profits at present come from selling hard copies to 
libraries, so "reports are conflicting" here. A couple of things do seem clear 
to me:
(1) there are no significant  benefits to taxonomy to be had from e-only 
publication, for it is only removing something, not adding anything. Would it 
speed up taxonomy? I doubt it. What with Zootaxa already publishing 5 days a 
week, and ZooKeys often twice a week, I'm not sure that we need or want to speed 
it up any further? Would it make publication cheaper for taxonomists? Difficult 
to say ...
(2) the issue raised below by Doug about 'the distinction between acceptable and 
unacceptable e-pubs' is a red herring, perhaps being raised now by some as if it 
had relevance, to suit their own agendas, when it in fact has no relevance to a 
proposed change from hard copy to e-pubs. The issue is the same either way. The 
likes of Makhan (http://species.wikimedia.org/wiki/Makhan), etc. are doing just 
fine under the current system. There is no requirement in the Code at present 
relating to peer review, and the Code is so vague on what counts as validly 
published hard copy that anyone could at present just print off a run of 
numerous identical hard copies from their PC and "make them available" 
simultaneously on a certain date, thereby complying with the Code (even if no 
library or individual bothered to obtain any of the copies). The crucial point 
is this:

the only legitimate and ethical way to restrict taxonomy is procedural. This has 
always been the philosophy, as far as I can tell, of the ICZN. ANYBODY can 
publish taxonomy IF they comply with the Code. The Code does not, and cannot 
make judgements on what qualifications or institutional affiliations are "bona 
fide", as going down that path would become way too "political", and may lead to 
a backlash against the ICZN from those who feel unjustly excluded from being 
able to contribute to world taxonomy.

Some people might see a parallel with the medical profession in that you have to 
be a qualified and registered person to legally practice medicine. If Makhan or 
someone thought of themselves as a surgeon, they would not be allowed to operate 
on people, for example! However, I am not aware of any law which restricts 
someone from publishing bogus medical research privately and without peer 
review. I don't think there is anything to stop me publishing in a 
non-peer-reviewed "hobbyist magazine" that the cure for cancer is an enzyme 
extracted from the skin of the tuatara - it is just rubbish and the media is 
already full of a fair bit of rubbish!

So, a good approach (in fact the traditional one) for the ICZN to take regarding 
e-only publication, if it becomes a reality, is to require that any proposed new 
taxon be flagged as new, and given a diagnosis and type designated, etc., in the 
usual way ...


From: Doug Yanega <dyanega at ucr.edu>
Sent: Fri, 12 November, 2010 7:15:16 AM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] ICZN procedure question

Stan Schultz wrote:

>A recent question arose regarding the prior use of a name on the
>Internet. Specifically, a group of taxonomists are preparing to name a
>theraphosid spider. The paper has not yet been published, but someone
>who apparently has advance knowledge has announced the proposed name on
>a hobbyist/enthusiast forum.
>The questions are:
>Does such publication constitute prior publication by current ICZN
>rules? If so, must the taxonomists now use a different name?
>If its announcement on the Internet constitutes prior usage, but it is
>(innocently) published anyway, and later its prior use on the Internet
>comes to light, how would the problem most probably be resolved?

Under the present Code, this is not a problem, as others have 
indicated. However, there will soon be a change in the Code that will 
permit valid "electronic publication" of nomenclatural acts. There is 
still some serious discussion as to the exact nature of the 
conditions and restrictions involved, but this is fairly close on the 
horizon, so in a year or two, a question such as yours might have a 
very different answer. The botanists have also been wrangling with 
this issue, and preparing a similar change to their Code, though it 
remains to be seen whether the ICBN and ICZN will treat e-publication 
in the *exact* same manner. Under either preliminary version of these 
changes, it is unlikely that a name appearing in a hobbyist forum in 
the manner you describe would have validity. That being said, the 
additional steps needed to validly publish in a hobbyist forum under 
the future Codes might not be very difficult to attain, so I wouldn't 
say that this would NEVER become a concern.

At this point, the perception is that the taxonomic community would 
prefer absolute freedom - anyone can publish anything, anywhere - to 
the imposition of any sort of restrictions (e.g., peer review, name 
registration, or a "whitelist" of acceptable electronic journals). If 
there is an overwhelming sentiment among taxonomists that we should 
NOT allow hobbyists and other self-publishing online sources to be 
validated, then now is the time to make that sentiment known (before 
irrevocable changes are made) - along with an explanation as to how 
we can make the distinction between acceptable and unacceptable 
e-pubs objective (assuming that is a concern).


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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