[Taxacom] Paper on taxonomic standards in herpetology

Scott Monks smonks at uaeh.edu.mx
Tue May 21 11:16:18 CDT 2013


Well said, Neal.  
	My doctoral professor of some 25 years ago taught me "Don't fight with anyone--Just bury them under the weight of your publications!"  I have always tried to follow that, although my list of publications is not too weighty!  Still, correcting even "stupid" errors in a professional manner without attacking anyone has always produced the best results for me, and I hope that those who correct mine in the future will also be professional!
	The point is, as Neal states, some people always will do what they want, whether it is for the best of science or not.  The solution to that is already being presented here--the reputation of the person in the scientific community is nil and the works are not respected.  We can't worry about what the public thinks--if they respected us and our work we would be MUCH better paid and students would be clamoring to have us accept them for training!

	It is very frustrating personally and professionally to see works of poor quality, but we must continue to do good work and not lose hope. It is difficult, but it is more worthwhile than negative anger.  After all, who has seen a good, honest politician, but we keep hoping that the next one will be better (ha, ha) and I think the probability of this is about the same as for ALL scientists to do good, honest work!

	I don't offer this as an "excuse" for all of the bad pseudo-science going on; it is only my way of surviving without getting any more cynical.

Regards to all,
Scott Monks

On May 15, 2013, at 3:34 PM, Neal Evenhuis wrote:

> We've gone down his road before -- probably more than once.
> 
> The Introduction to the Code (p. xix) has as its first principle upon which the Code is based:
> 
> "The Code refrains from infringing upon taxonomic judgement, which must not be made subject to regulation or constraint." The Code does not censor, suppress, or regulate publications unless they are deemed to infringe upon the stability of universality of scientific names of animals (= nomenclature; NOT taxonomy). Not the stability of species, which is being argued here. You can have 2, 3, or even 200+ (thanks, Robineau-Desvoidy) names for one species.
> 
> So, if someone publishes in peer-reviewd journals or not, if they comply with the Code, they have made available a name that someone else may not agree with. In some cases, they may have proposed over 200 names for one species. This has happened since the beginning of scientific publications and will continue.
> 
> Peer-review is actually a fairly recent phenomenon. Until the 1900s, books were published with no peer review and papers were read at society meetings and published with little changes except proof reading the typesetting by the author. Not much different than publishing in your own journal. And that was the way scientific publications were done for many years. Peer-review only began in earnest in the 20th century. If we all of a sudden restrict naming species to only be in peer-reviewed journals, we will have to then suppress quite a few names in the history of scientific publication.
> 
> I do not condone self-publication combined with lack of peer-review, but it has existed for hundreds of years and will continue. Taxonomist have to clean up whatever "mess" that some perceive. Robineau-Desvoidy is dead and his 200+ names are now safely sunk with little prospect of him resurrecting them.
> 
> Harold St. John was a botanist working here at the Bishop Museum when he retired from the University. In the late 1980s, a Manual of Flowering Plants of the Hawaiian Islands was being made by three botanists acting as editors. Two of the three (who did virtually all of the work except the preface) went through all the herbarium sheets for Hawaiian plants and synonymized a number of St. John names that he had published. Undaunted, he continued to publish more names in a battle to get more names published and the three editors continued to sink his names after his publications appeared. He then resorted to publishing more quickly and getting more names out by publishing only short Latin diagnoses in Phytologia -- a non-peer reviewed journal published by Harold Moldenke. Hundreds of names were published in this fashion and as many as possible were eventually synonymized by three editors; and I believe even a few after the Manual appeared in print in 1990. But some were good species -- so not all were sunk.
> 
> That typifies what we as taxonomists have been doing since Linnaeus and will continue to do. Cleaning up after others.
> 
> The Hosers,and Hawkeswoods, and Lehrers and Motschulsky's and Robineau-Desvoidys of the world will always exist. The ICZN is not there to censor their views, no matter how they decide to publish. That would be infringing on the primary principle of the Code.
> 
> -Neal

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Dr. Scott Monks
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