[Taxacom] taxacom NZ Inventory

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Tue Nov 16 17:42:30 CST 2010

Hi Geoff,
I'm not quite sure whether to interpret your tone as sarcastic or straight up, 
but it probably really doesn't matter anyway ...
Let me just clarify that there are a very small number of professional 
entomologists whom I have ever had the need to "complain about", and this has 
always been reluctantly and in self-defense, so the problems aren't a result of 
the complaints, but the complaints are a result of the problems (although it 
tends to escalate both ways). As someone who spends most of my time trying to 
build a solid and freely available information resource on biodiversity, the 
seriousness of an officially endorsed publication on N.Z. beetles which is maybe 
25% utter bo!!ocks, and which will probably be widely used and cited, may seem 
somewhat greater to me than to most other people? Perhaps you could comment on 
whether you see that, assuming that it is true, as either a problem or as 
nothing of any importance? And whether you see any value in checklists with no 
supporting evidence?

From: Geoff Read <gread at actrix.gen.nz>
To: Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>; Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Sent: Wed, 17 November, 2010 12:14:55 PM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] taxacom NZ Inventory

Thanks Stephen,

Interesting reading for all, and a fine demonstration of why the professional 
entomologists whose work failings you seem often to complain about have become 
wary of your tendency towards erratic and injudicious behaviour. What a talent 
you have for getting yourself into strife.  I'm sure everyone can better 
understand now why you made the comments you did, and value them appropriately.



>>> Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz> 11/17/10 10:21 AM >>>

Firstly, if there is a breach of trust here, then it is not you who has been
breached, so I would suggest that you think about what is or isn't any of your
business before you start criticising me, especially when you are clearly not in
possession of all the relevant facts. Your colleague Dennis, the editor of the
volume, freely gave me a PDF of the insect chapter, and stated 'The volume is
currently being printed (2010 publication date)'. I had clearly stated my
intentions to him, viz. 'I would be very interested to see the final version
asap, and I will advertise it on Wikispecies on all the relevant taxon pages,
and I will write Wiki-articles to keep track of additions to the fauna...' I
received no requests from Dennis limiting my citation of the document prior to
actual publication, which was indicated by him to be pretty much about now
anyway. PDFs have been already quite widely distributed to interested parties, I
believe. So, I would suggest that you are the one nitpicking over exact
publication date, and that there is enough fuzziness around this issue to debunk
your comment 'here he is unwisely pontificating publicly about a book which has
not yet been published'.

>Stephen Thorpe loves finding and pointing out errors made by others
Actually, I take no pleasure in it at all ... and how the heck would you know
what I do or don't "love"?? When was the last time we met ... oh, we never have

Actually, my criticisms of the book may have come across as more general than I
intended, because I was trying not to be too specific about a few things that
could make me rather vulnerable to attack. But what the heck, I might as well
tell the actual story now:

There are problems with some of the other sections, but my primary concern is
with the beetle section. My criticisms of it are far from "nitpicky" - there are
LOTS of mistakes here - and given that the data flow from this book is to NZOR
(where it will be used by serious users like Department of Conservation and
Biosecurity New Zealand), and beyond to global biodiversity databases like GBIF,
etc., I consider it my moral duty to wave a red flag at this point and highlight
the problems. Yes, there is also a personal aspect. I once had the opportunity
of doing this beetle list myself, but it would have been unpaid, and given the
limitations of the required format, I declined in favour of doing it on
Wikispecies instead, which has a much better dynamic format. Apparently, there
was no "official coleopterist" who would/could do the list for the NZ Inventory,
so the job was given to a general entomologist who was paid to do it, and had
full institutional backing. I could foresee that the results of this were not
likely to be good, so I offered to co-author it with him, free of charge. This
offer was rejected, but I was told that I could if I wanted to act as an
anonymous unpaid reviewer after he had done what he could and before
publication. Anyway, I declined that "generous" offer, but, not wanting it to
end up a total mess for N.Z. entomology, put a good basic framework in place and
some (but not all) details of the N.Z. beetle fauna up in the public domain on
Wikispecies. I knew how this was going to end (and sure enough, I find that in
the areas where I had put good data on Wikispecies, the list is rather good, and
in the other areas it contains many mistakes of varying magnitudes, mistakes
that will now be perpetuated widely unless I can somehow debunk them), but
seeing it end up exactly as predicted has somehow made me feel very angry - I
apologise for this Geoff, but there it is. The particularly frustrating aspect
is that since there is no indication given of the basis upon which individual
items are included in the list, it is impossible to state categorically that
they are wrong, and the average punter is likely going to place their trust
where I believe it has been abused...



From: Geoffrey Read <gread at actrix.gen.nz>
To: Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Sent: Tue, 16 November, 2010 10:39:10 PM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] taxacom NZ Inventory

Stephen Thorpe loves finding and pointing out errors made by others, that
much we know about him. However, here he is unwisely pontificating
publicly about a book which has not yet been published, but which
apparently he has been allowed to preview. Perhaps he would like to make
clear to the list how this came about legitimately, and tell us how
voicing his opinions of it internationally, and pointing out its perceived
flaws now, is absolutely not the breach of trust that it appears to be.

The publisher is not distributing the volume until January*, so
unfortunately the rest of the world cannot yet evaluate the worth of his
nitpickings -now somewhat backtracked upon.

* http://www.cup.canterbury.ac.nz/catalogue/nz_inventory_bio_Vol2.shtml

Geoff Read

On Tue, November 16, 2010 Stephen Thorpe wrote:

> yes, Penny did a very good job with the Collembola, and had there been
> someone
> like her for every group, thinks would be pretty near ideal. Part of the
> reason
> why the N.Z. Collembola list will not easily become out of date is due
> to the
> lack of anybody actively working on them much. My point was really just
> about
> sections involving taxa that I know the N.Z. fauna of very well, and
> seeing
> certain stuff and thinking "where the heck did they get that from???"
> and not
> being given enough info to be able to verify or refute it. Just one
> somewhat
> minor example is the longhorn genus Blosyropus which was originally
> thought to
> be a lepturine, but subsequently found to be a cerambycine. Now I see it
> listed
> back (WITHOUT COMMENT) as a lepturine again! One step forward, two steps
> back.
> It would actually change the biogeography of the subfamily a lot if N.Z.
> had
> native ones ...
> so, yes, let me be perfectly clear that there are no problems with the
> Collembola list that I am aware of ...
> Stephen
> ________________________________
> From: Penelope Greenslade <p.greenslade at ballarat.edu.au>
> To: Chris Thompson <xelaalex at cox.net>; Peter DeVries
> <pete.devries at gmail.com>;
> Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>
> Cc: "taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu" <Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
> Sent: Tue, 16 November, 2010 7:04:31 PM
> Subject: Re: taxacom NZ Inventory
> Re: the NZ inventory. I wrote the chapter on Collembola, a group I have
> been working on
> for over 40 years. Also I had it refereed by a younger colleague who
> spent about ten years in New Zealand and who
> also works on Collembola. As I reviewed the text again only a few
> months ago, it is hardly out of date. No data
> in it has not been published already. Relevant synonyms were included
> but certainly only those that relate to New Zealand species. There are
> other web sites that give full synonyms for widespread species so there
> was no point in including them all.
> For me as an unsalaried researcher to have prepared an electronic
> catalogue which allowed continuous updating
> would have been impossible because of time and other constraints. Also
> I doubt that I am an exception looking at the list of authors.
> So, I do think that Stephen Thorpe's generalisations were somewhat
> overstated.
> Penelope Greenslade
> Senior Research Fellow
> Centre for Environmental Management
> School of Science and Engineering
> University of Ballarat
> Mt Helen Campus, University Drive
> Mt Helen Victoria Australia
> PO Box 663, Ballarat, Victoria 3353, Australia
> (61) 03 5327 6205
>>>> Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz> 16/11/2010 9:39 am >>>
>>what can you do when there are NO peers
> a good example of this is rolling off the presses as we speak, in the
> form of
> the NZ Inventory of Biodiversity, and particularly the chapter on
> Hexapoda. Each
> of the sections were written by an expert on that particular group
> (actually,
> not even that is true, but we won't go there), and they all acted as
> peer
> reviewers for each other. But hang on, what does a lepidopterist know
> about NZ
> Coleoptera, etc. etc. ??? Not much, and the sections are all just
> details on the
> NZ fauna of each group. So, effectively there were no peers, and
> nothing much
> for them to review apart from details on groups that they don't know
> much about!
> Worse is that there are many records of undescribed taxa etc. given
> without any
> indication of the basis for those records, so the records are
> effectively
> irrefutable and unverifiable. Is this science? As a hard copy, it is
> already out
> of date, so wouldn't it be far better to develop the wiki system for
> this kind
> of checklist stuff? I do not particularly value
> unverifiable/irrefutable
> information of this kind written in stone. The user is unable to
> distinguish
> errors and omissions from "oh, they must know something I don't which
> makes what
> they say correct", particularly since it is not a synonymic checklist


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