[Taxacom] Paper on taxonomic standards in herpetology

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Wed May 22 15:47:44 CDT 2013

Yes, Wolfgang, I respect your right to espouse your views, and I am just adding mine into the mix, hopefully to gain more of an overall balance on the issues. Again, my worry is "the slippery slope", i.e. what can start off as a reasonable change to exclude the most extreme taxonomic "vandals" can end up, if we are not very careful, as a weapon to exclude others who are not such "vandals". Related to this is the fact that poor quality taxonomy is sometimes committed by prima facie "respectable" taxonomists, and passes effortlessly through peer review into print. It seems wrong to focus too much on bad taxonomy coming from one quarter, a quarter which is rather less able to defend itself, than from the quarter that is protected by prima facie "legit" institutions (who crave overheads, and drop standards acccordingly)...

From: "Wuster,Wolfgang" <w.wuster at bangor.ac.uk>
To: "taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> 
Sent: Wednesday, 22 May 2013 11:02 PM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Paper on taxonomic standards in herpetology

Stephen Thorpe wrote:
> [quote]taxonomic decisions in herpetology and their nomenclatural 
> consequences are acceptable only when supported by a body of evidence 
> published within the peer-review process[unquote]
> I agree that taxonomic decisions in herpetology are acceptable only 
> when supported by a body of published evidence. I'm not sure that peer 
> review prior to publication adds anything? But more seriously, it is 
> the "nomenclatural consequences" bit which is highly debatable! If new 
> names are published in accordance with the Code, then they cannot be 
> claimed to be "unacceptable", except that they may be treated as 
> synonyms (i.e. invalid). This much is already an option. It is however 
> evident that you, Wolfgang, are pushing for such names to be 
> considered unavailable, and THAT is the contentious bit ...

All of us who worked long and hard on this paper, who spent months in 
discussion with individuals and societies, gathering and assessing 
support, modifying the text very substantially on the basis of 
information and suggestions received, and steering it through two rounds 
of peer review in the Herpetological Review (and by "all of us" I mean 
primarily Hinrich Kaiser, who led the initiative from the start and did 
the overwhelming majority of the work, contrary to the assumptions of 
many) are well aware that our suggestions would be controversial. 
However, I trust that you support the right of those espousing 
controversial views to air those, and I also trust that you support the 
right of those who disagree with aspects of the Code and desire change 
to voice that view, even if you strongly disagree?

I posted the link to the paper here to make others in the taxonomic 
community aware of this ongoing issue and the specifics of the paper - 
it is a taxonomic discussion forum after all. I am not surprised by the 
diversity of reactions received, but hope that it will in time 
contribute to a sensible discussion of the matter, and perhaps to to a 
solution that will preserve the interests of all bona fide taxonomists 
as well as the integrity of both taxonomy and nomenclature.

Dr. Wolfgang Wüster  -  Senior Lecturer
School of Biological Sciences    
Bangor University
Environment Centre Wales
Bangor LL57  2UW                
Wales, UK                        

Tel: +44 1248 382301  
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