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

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Tue Jan 7 23:03:54 CST 2014

I have submitted through the formal channel (it will be interesting to see if my submission sees the light of day or disappears into the void).
In a nutshell, I think that several distinct issues are being conflated. Is the problem poor quality taxonomy, or bad ethics? Does the ICZN have any mandate to tackle either of those two issues? Neither of them is directly about zoological nomenclature. Some "bona fide" scientists also have bad ethics, but in a more subtle way. It is somewhat ironic that the ICZN is effectively proposing to punish people who adhere strictly to the Code, which is what the "taxonomic vandals" do, when, by contrast, some "bona fide" taxonomists are often very sloppy when it comes to Code compliance! Clearly, the ICZN has misgivings about directly tackling the problems, which would mean going against their number one principle of not interfering in taxonomy, so they are trying to offload the policing to the "scientific community". I'm not convinced that the problem is widespread and/or serious enough to warrant all this. Rather I suspect a handful of "bona fide" scientists
 are irritated by some "taxonomic vandals", and have been lobbying the ICZN accordingly.
Regarding any proposed new name, the only thing, I suggest, we need to ask is: can it be applied to a taxon by way of the description/illustrations/type(s)? If so, then there is no problem and little or no reason to invalidate the name. We should ask this question of all names, not just those of the supposed "taxonomic vandals" ...

From: Kim van der Linde <kim at kimvdlinde.com>
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu 
Sent: Wednesday, 8 January 2014 4:11 PM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Call for Comments: Taxonomic Practice and the Code

I will submit an comment through the formal channels, and it will be 
along the line of: HELL NO!


On 1/7/2014 1:34 PM, Doug Yanega wrote:
> 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
> *http://iczn.org/node/40405*
> 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.
> Sincerely,

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