[Taxacom] Call for proxy votes for the forthcoming International Botanical Congress

dipteryx at freeler.nl dipteryx at freeler.nl
Thu Jul 7 02:49:28 CDT 2011

-----Oorspronkelijk bericht-----
Van: Thiele, Kevin [mailto:Kevin.Thiele at dec.wa.gov.au]
Verzonden: do 7-7-2011 1:21

> Thanks Paul,

> I believe this is a proper venue for the debate, because correct names
> are the currency of all subscribers to Taxacom, and the correct
> handling of names is an important issue.

The proper venue for the debate is the Nomenclature Section (hopefully 
only that at Melbourne and not at subsequent ones), as it is the 
Nomenclature Section that has the power of decision: the set of Taxacom
subscribers and the set of voters at the Nomenclature Section share 
a subset of those present or represented at both, but not all voters 
follow Taxacom. Nevertheless, Taxacom does reach quite a few of them, 
and every ambiguity that can be cleared up here may smooth the debate 
* * *

> In response to the main points of your position below.

> 1. You believe that a 60% majority is needed to change the Code, so 
> a 60% majority should have been needed to change the type of Acacia.

> I fully agree, and I believe everyone else agrees, that it's entirely 
> appropriate that a 60% majority vote is needed to change the rules in
> the Code. So doesn't that make it odd that *three* 60% majority votes
> are needed to conserve or reject a type (a relatively trivial matter 
> compared with changing the rules themselves) - two at each of the
> Committees established to deal with these matters and one at the
> Nomenclature Session. 

This is a misrepresentation of procedure. It requires only one 60%
majority vote, namely at the Nomenclature Section. The steps are
independent; theoretically it is quite possible to have a procedure
that would run:
1) an author wishing to protect a name submits a proposal ("to the
General Committee"): he likes solution A
2) the relevant permanent Committee studies the matter and decides
to recommend solution B
3) the General Committee looks again at the matter, from a different 
perspective, considers the proposal and what the relevant permanent 
Committee has done and decides to recommend solution C (or A)
4) the Nomenclature Section looks at the proposal and the 
recommendations of the relevant permanent Committee and the 
General Committee, but decides on solution D (or A, or B).

Almost certainly such a procedure with four different solutions at 
the four stages is only a theoretical construct, as the Nomenclature 
Section is not in the habit of investing much time and effort in 
individual proposals. However, at the other levels, different 
solutions at different stages do happen. What also happens is that 
a Committee changes its position and, say, first recommends against 
conservation and later in favour of conservation. 
* * *

> 2. You suggest that because a 60% supermajority was not achieved
> either way at Vienna, *nothing happened* and so the Acacia issue 
> was not decided one way or the other.

> It's true that the Committees have a standing procedure that a 60%
> supermajority is required to decide a matter one way or the other and 
> if this is not met then they keep deliberating. It's one of the strengths 
> of the Committee process - they can and do spend a lot of time on 
> these matters so as to come to a carefully reasoned decision. Clearly,
> the Nomenclature Section cannot work in the same way - are you
> suggesting that if a result was not clear in Vienna then it should wait
> another 6 years for Melbourne, and if it's not clear there then it should
> wait another 6 years for...that way lies confusion.

No, that is not what I am suggesting.

Technically, what happened is very straightforward:
1) a proposal was made to conserve Acacia with a conserved type
2) the relevant permanent Committee (in a very well-reasoned report)
made the recommendation to indeed conserve Acacia with a conserved
3) the General Committee (apparently somewhat rushed) also made 
the recommendation to conserve Acacia with a conserved type
4) the Nomenclature Section looked at the proposal and the 
recommendations of the relevant permanent Committee and the 
General Committee, and voted, a vote well short of the 60% majority
required to accept the proposal. Nothing happened: no change was made.
Proposal dismissed (at least for the time being).

>From a human perspective it is less straightforward. A development
which apparently has confused many is that the Nomenclature Section,
beginning in 1987 has adopted the ceremony of accepting the report of
the General Committee rather than the joint actions as recommended by 
the General Committee (for details on how this developed see p. 109 of 
the paper cited earlier, at 
http://redalyc.uaemex.mx/redalyc/pdf/556/55663111.pdf). Obviously 
this is a matter of ceremony and smooth procedure only. The underlying 
(real) actions did not change for over half a century.

So, although a report of the General Committee has no status, as such,
it is humanly possible to state "So, at best, the Report is still on the
table, waiting for a future International Botanical Congress to either
reject or accept it." 
* * *

> 3. You quote the Code Arts. 14.12 and 14.14 in support of this view.

> But the Code (Art. 14.14 and Rec. 14A.1) has a very clear intent. 
> While a proposal to conserve is being considered by the Committees,
> authors are required to continue using existing names; once the
> Committee has made a decision, authors are required to use the new
> name *as decided* (with the clear expectation that the decision will be
> ratified at the next Congress). If the intent of the Code was as you
> suggest, then 14.14 would require authors to continue using existing
> names (and hold off using the new name) until the Congress vote. The
> intent of the Code is very clear - the Committees were established to
> deal with these matters in depth, objectively and with due deliberation,
> and their decision is given great weight. To make it very easy for a
> Nomenclature Section meeting to overturn a General Committee's
> decision, as you suggest, would again engender uncertainty and
> confusion between Congresses.

Yes, there are two different things: the procedure on how to deal 
with a proposal and the usage of names. Indeed, Art. 14.14 and Rec. 14A.1 
deal with how authors should handle names pending a final (at least till 
a next Congress) decision on a proposal.

Nevertheless, in Art. 14.12 and 14.14 it can be read how procedure on 
proposals is laid down: a procedure to protect a name (or a spelling,
or a usage, etc) starts with an author submitting a proposal to the 
General Committee and ends with a decision by the International 
Botanical Congress. See also Art. 32.9 and 32.10, 32.4 and 53.5 
for parallel provisions (the last two are even more explicit).
* * *

> It seems to me that those who are upset by the Vienna decision feel 
> so incensed by the matter that they are seeking to change the Code 
> and its processes in ways that have very negative consequences for
> nomenclature as a whole, in order to right the perceived wrong. It's
> important for everyone to step back from the emotions surrounding
> Acacia and to look at this objectively and with common sense. The
> Acacia matter itself is of minor importance compared with the
> consequences of the actions of those trying to keep it in Africa.

I cannot speak for anybody else, but personally I would not be upset 
in the least by a retypification of Acacia (I have two hardcover volumes
of the Flora of Australia sitting on a bookshelf, looking shiny and 
authoritative, and they are a reassuring presence. I would not mind 
at all if these kept on being accurate in their usage of names), but 
I am upset at what happened at Vienna. What should have been eminently 
simple (a proposal was made but not accepted: "Next case!") is now, 
to put it mildly, a procedural mess, where Officials that we should 
be able to rely on "are seeking to change the Code and its processes 
in ways that have very negative consequences for nomenclature as a 
whole". Outcries over taxonomic imperialism have been made.

The Nomenclature Section at Vienna voted 55% against accepting the
name Acacia with a conserved type into the Code, and nevertheless there 
is now such an entry in the printed copy of the Vienna Code. Hopefully
the Nomenclature Section at Melbourne will make a decision that will 
clear the air, as the current phantom entry is highly mystifying to the 


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