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

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Wed Jan 8 12:03:18 CST 2014

I find it a little disappointing, though not really surprising, that 
despite my call to NOT initiate a public flurry of comments, several 
people have felt compelled to do exactly that. However, it does at least 
afford the opportunity to point out a few additional details.

On 1/7/14 6:44 PM, Kim van der Linde wrote:
> I will submit an comment through the formal channels, and it will be 
> along the line of: HELL NO!
The solicitation is not phrased as a yes or no question; please read the 
final paragraph carefully. If I had to summarize the solicitation into a 
single question, it would be this:

"Given that we are about to write a new Code, what, if anything, should 
this new Code say regarding ethics?"

Does that make things clearer for people?

On 1/7/14 10:08 PM, Raymond Hoser - The Snakeman wrote:
> Noting I am the target of the attack and this is all it is, an attack, 
> it is perhaps worth checking first to see if the alleged problem 
> actually exists (in the context given) and the alleged factual basis 
> behind the alleged problem!
To paraphrase Carly Simon, "You're so vain, you probably think this Call 
for Comments is about you."

Well, Mr. Hoser, for the record, THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU. The controversy 
in which you are presently embroiled is just one of many awkward 
problems that lie outside of the normal jurisdiction of the Code. If you 
have any role in this, consider yourself the proverbial straw that broke 
the camel's back. For everyone else who has commented, THIS IS NOT ABOUT 
MR. HOSER. So far, the comments we are receiving seem to be focused on 
this one controversy, rather than what was EXPLICITLY requested, which 
are *general comments* about whether the Code and Commission need to 
become concerned with ethics, and - if so - how.

Allow me, since it appears necessary, to give real-life examples OTHER 
than that exemplified by this particular controversy:

(1) a reviewer takes a manuscript sent to them for review, describing 
new taxa, and publishes it with their own name on it, thereby gaining 
authorship of all the described taxa. (2) an author publishes a work 
that, due to an oversight, fails to make the name(s) therein available, 
and another author sees this and immediately publishes a version of the 
same work that DOES - but without notifying the original author, who 
could easily have corrected the problem themselves, and might even have 
been in the process of doing so. (3) an author takes specimens out of a 
country illegally, and describes them as new. (4) an author takes 
specimens of multiple species, breaks them apart, and recombines the 
pieces to form composites, and describes them as new.

Note that the first three scenarios all involve perfectly valid taxa, 
but whose authors acted unethically. The Code offers no mechanism, 
presently, to reject such names, even though I expect most taxonomists 
would strenuously object to acknowledging the authorship of such 
individuals - recognizing such names only rewards unethical behavior 
(note also that cases 1 and 2 both violate the existing Code of Ethics 
in Appendix A of the Code). These examples are very important because 
they cannot be dealt with simply by synonymizing them under existing 
names, which is what everyone has been proposing as a mechanism to deal 
with unethical behavior. There IS a difference between unethical 
behavior, and poor taxonomy, and that's why this is a complex issue, and 
why the questions and answers are not just simple "yes" or "no"!

In the fourth case, it is a waste of anyone's time to try to formally 
synonymize the names, which were generated by unscientific means - and 
the question remains why anyone SHOULD, if they could be treated as 
unavailable instead.


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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