[Taxacom] Paper on taxonomic standards in herpetology

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Wed May 15 18:01:10 CDT 2013

Well, it could be argued that Hoser's present indulgences disqualify him from being taken seriously in future, should his work improve (unlikely enough), but you read too much into my words ... I was leaving that open ...

At any rate, the problem remains in defining "community", "peer", etc. Ultimately it comes down to inclusion/exclusion of people, chosen by other people. There is nothing to stop Hoser creating a community of peers, who review his work, but he will choose like-minded individuals for the community. On the other hand, hard-nosed professional types whoo are only in it for the $$$ will choose their own too! I suggest that nobody has the right to decide who is in and who is out ...

From: Wolfgang Wuster <w.wuster at bangor.ac.uk>
To: Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz> 
Cc: "taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> 
Sent: Thursday, 16 May 2013 10:45 AM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Paper on taxonomic standards in herpetology

On 15/05/2013 23:14, Stephen Thorpe wrote:

It is impossible to solve the problem. I would be more inclined to agree with you and call for a total ban against some people, like Hoser, except that the problem isn't as simple as that.
See, that's something I would oppose - if he does at some point produce a "proper" description in a journal not controlled by himself, then it should stand just like anyone else's.

There is no clear dichotomy between good and bad taxonomy. It is a continuum. I have seen too many "scientists" from "reputable" institutions publishing rubbish in "reputable" journals, and getting their mates/colleagues to pass it through peer review. The only possible solution, though it probably runs too much counter to current "trends", is to simply consider authorship of names as a mere technicality, with no significant merit to the namer. That way, Hoser can continue wasting his life on mere technicalities if he so wishes, but there would be little motivation for him to do so, and no real harm to anyone else. If he creates a new genus for every species of herp, then the names of any subsequently recognised new genera (based on described species) will likely bear his name as author OF THE NAME, but this is just a mere technicality, of no consequence ...
That's fine in principle, but I just don't think it is compatible with human nature. That's partly because the concept of "discovering a new species" is centered on naming it (I suppose could be amenable to modification in terms of the vocabulary used in connection with biodiversity discovery), but also because as humans we attach great importance to names - it's just the way we are. If species had numbers rather than names, then I don't think anyone would get emotional about them.

On the other hand, Doug Yanega's imaginative and insightful suggestions, particularly the idea of a community-based step-by-step LAN system, would potentially be able to address many of the issues raised here without impinging on the freedom of the majority of taxonomists unaffected by vandalism. The current system *is* unfair towards those working on affected taxa.  What those of us involved in the Kaiser et al. paper want more than anything else is to stimulate a discussion that involves thinking outside the box to find solutions to an old problem while ensuring that these solutions do not disrupt or hinder the work of others.


Dr. Wolfgang Wüster  -  Senior Lecturer
School of Biological Sciences    Bangor University
Environment Centre Wales
Bangor LL57  2UW                 Wales, UK                       
Tel: +44 1248 382301  Fax: +44 1248 382569
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