[Taxacom] The strain between Wikipedia and Science

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Fri Feb 11 20:29:20 CST 2011

the point is that Wikipedia, Wikispecies, Species-ID, etc. are all good for 
*some* purposes, and have their own rules

if you write with the rules in mind, then there should be no problem ... but if 
you try to rewrite the rules to suit yourself, then expect opposition ...

From: Francisco Welter-Schultes <fwelter at gwdg.de>
To: TAXACOM at MAILMAN.NHM.KU.EDU; Doug Yanega <dyanega at ucr.edu>
Sent: Sat, 12 February, 2011 9:25:18 AM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] The strain between Wikipedia and Science

interesting contribution, thanks for your time.

Basic line is, the problems that I addressed, do not exist. Well. 
Okay, I made better experiences in the English, Portuguese and 
Spanish sections. 

I appreciate your engagement. 

> Of course, for someone who is unable or unwilling to
> spend the time necessary to deal with administrators, this may not
> seem like such a great system ("Sure, I can eventually win this
> battle, but if it takes 2 months, is it worth my time?"). 

Exactly the problem. I did this once. I had to prove that the term 
"epithet" is not the term used for "specific name" in zoology, only 
in botany. I finally won the game against a person - certainly a 
skilled scientist, but obviously with little experience in 
nomenclature - who had found two references where "epithet"  was 
mentioned to be the term used in zoology (one was a university 
script), and was totally surprised about my contribution. I checked 
Google Scholar and came to the result that 98 % of the zoological 
papers there used "specific name", 2 % "epithet". Only after that 
and with reference to the Code my initial contrubution was admitted.

I decided for myself never to do anything alike again. Experiencing 
this once was okay, but not a second time. In the next revert war I 
did not repeat this, I just went outside the German WP, and escaped 
to the English site (the Germans are not really unfriendly. I asked 
him if he would mind if I post my contribution to the English site, 
and he said he would not delete my contribution from there. And he 
did not). 
Since then I behave like Nadia, just escaping the fields where 
another person holds the rights.

Okay Doug, you would say, nobody holds rights. But practical life is 

It is not that I am not the person who would tend to avoid a 
discussion. You can learn a lot in such discussions. It is not 
useless to discuss. Also with amateurs and non-experts. No 
problem. They may know a lot more than I know. But if people just 
delete your contributions and refuse discussing about it (except 
writing "you must provide a published reference that I accept, or I 
will delete you again"), and you learn they are protected by the 
other members in the circle, well, what will you do.

In some cases I have poposed to improve some things. Usually 
standards. The answer is usually, well, this has been discussed 2-4 
years ago and we finally decided to have it this way. Would be much 
work to change it. So we will not change it. They seem tired. 
Occasionally someone complains "over and over again the same 
discussion", without realising that the only solution is to change 
the standard so that people won't complain repeatedly any more. As a 
scientist I am used to a certain standard. If the standard is too 
low, I won't feel invited to contribute.

The name of the author in a taxonomic name is linked with the 
homepage of that person, instead of linking author and year to a 
record of the publication where the name was published. Why else do 
we cite author and year? Nobody in WP seems to have understood this.

In WP the original combination of a zoological name of a species is 
called a synonym of its current combination. No matter in which 
language version. The Germans immediately reverted my post when I 
suggested to replace "synonyms" by "other combinations", and 
explained explicitly that "synonym" is an ambiguous term in such a 
context and it might be better to use a neutral term. I tried to 
explain the problem on the page "Synonym (Zoology)", by giving the 
references in the Code that different genus-species combinations of 
the same specific name are not synonyms in the nomenclatural sense. 
They immediately deleted it. This is not directly in the Code. We 
will only allow you to post your comment in here once the Code has 
been changed. Well, nobody can help them any more, I guess.

I participated in a discussion in the Portuguese WP, who asked me for 
my opinion in this point, but it seems they finally decided not to 
modify the traditional use of the term "synonym" there. Would be too 
much work to change it. Much more friendly, but the result is the 

This kind of things.

Yes, I agree, WP is useful. I often use it. But its bad reputation is 


University of Goettingen, Germany


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