[Taxacom] Call for Comments: Taxonomic Practice and the Code

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Tue Jan 7 12:34:57 CST 2014

Dear All: I and fellow ICZN Commissioner Mark Harvey have just published 
a brief note, titled as in the subject header, in the Bulletin of 
Zoological Nomenclature. The online version is available at


I feel it is arguably the most important such solicitation in the 
history of the ICZN, as it could potentially affect one of the most 
fundamental principles of the Code; namely, that the Code and Commission 
remain neutral regarding violations of standards of taxonomic practice 
and ethics. As such, I wish to draw people's attention to it, and take 
this opportunity to emphasize several things:

(1) For everyone reading this, YOUR participation is crucial, whether 
you are a practicing taxonomist or not, because everyone who studies 
living organisms is affected by controversies surrounding the correct 
names to be used for those organisms. This is far too important an issue 
to allow a tiny handful of people to have undue influence over the 
course of the discussion, and the future of taxonomy. The Commission is 
not likely to undertake fundamental changes in the Code unless there is 
a CLEAR MAJORITY in terms of public opinion. As such, I am hoping to 
have hundreds, if not thousands, of responses submitted in response to 
this solicitation, so we on the Commission have a truly significant 
sample size to work with. I therefore encourage everyone reading this to 
forward this message (in its entirety) to all of their colleagues.

(2) PLEASE do not respond to this solicitation here, in this newsgroup. 
*Instructions for submitting comments can be found at 
http://iczn.org/content/instructions-comments* (and also see additional 
important details in the solicitation itself). This is NOT a call for a 
public debate - I would even prefer to receive personal e-mail requests 
for clarification, however numerous, rather than have this turn into a 
public free-for-all, because it is a very contentious subject.

(3) PLEASE read the solicitation carefully. We tried to make it concise, 
and explicit. I wish to emphasize that the question at hand is a GENERAL 
one, regarding the *role of standards and ethics in the practice of 
taxonomy and nomenclature*. I will quote the pertinent passage, in order 
to reinforce the idea:

"We must stress that this is a very broad issue, which manifests in many 
ways, affects many disciplines, and has occurred throughout the history 
of taxonomy. We also recognize that the most prominent and timely 
concerns relate to issues such as plagiarism, falsification of data, 
criminal activities, and practices that subvert or circumvent the 
process of peer review (which is considered an essential element of all 
scientific practice, taxonomy included). This is, emphatically, not a 
referendum on professionals versus amateurs (or other cultural 
stereotypes), nor a referendum on the merits (or lack thereof) of peer 
review. Basically, what we seek to know is whether the taxonomic 
community wants to continue dealing with these issues at their own 
discretion, or whether they want the Commission to be empowered to do so 
(or something in between); we will not do so on our own initiative."

(4) For those of you seeking a "nutshell version" of what the heart of 
the controversy is that triggered this solicitation in the first place, 
I can offer the following: "Are there, or are there not, circumstances - 
when the opinion of the community is that a work has been produced in a 
manner incompatible with standards of taxonomic practice and ethics - 
where names or nomenclatural acts in a work should be treated /as if 
they had never been published/?". Note, however, that this is not the 
only possible approach! If you have a clear opinion on this, or 
alternatives, then please communicate your thoughts to the Commission 
for consideration.


Doug Yanega      Dept. of Entomology       Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314     skype: dyanega
phone: (951) 827-4315 (disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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