[Taxacom] why Martin Fikacek resign

bayshark at exemail.com.au bayshark at exemail.com.au
Wed Oct 7 03:44:15 CDT 2015





I just resigned for the position of editor in ZooKeys for two reasons: by
the recent publication of a description of a new species based on photos
ZooKeys evidently decided for the direction of "bad science and good
publicity" which is the direction I cannot support. In addition, they
recently introduced a new automatic system "bullying" editors, which now
makes editors basically non-paid slaves with very limited decision power. I
simply cannot work for such a journal anymore. Sorry to everybody, and
thanks for years of author-editor cooperation.


My letter to editors is attached below:  


Dear editors,


I was really shocked when I discovered the paper entitled "New species
without dead bodies: a case for photobased descriptions, illustrated by a
striking new species of Marleyimyia Hesse (Diptera, Bombyliidae) from South
Africa" published few days ago in ZooKeys. The paper is exremely dangerous
for several aspects:


(1) It misuses the weak parts of the Code which were originally designed to
keep some very old names valid, which were described in historical
publications mostly in 18th century. In difference to what the authors are
writing in the paper, this Article was not designed to solve the situation
with lost holotypes, but to keep valid the names which were really based
only on illustrations in times when no rules were given as it concerns the
quality of taxonomic descriptions. Using the same Article for today is
really ridiculous attempt to use this Article to cheat the system. Moreover,
note the word "illustration" in the text of the Article (i.e. NOT a


(2) It makes a very dangerous precedence for future generations. Now
everybody may try to describe a new big insect (cetonid beetle, wasp,
butterfly) based just on the photographs. I am sure good entomologists will
not do that, or would at least do that only once all needed characters are
really visible. Unfortunately the entomology is full of crazy individuals
focused only in describing new taxa and producing new names, no need to give
examples as everybody knows some of them. These individuals were difficult
to deal with even until now, basically producing chaos in taxonomy of
particular group and partly causing that taxonomy is often considered as
non-scientific. You now opened a brand new way for these people how to do
even worse work!


(3) In my opinion neither the authors of the above paper, nor the editorial
board is evidently not aware of the reason why voucher specimen (holotype)
is needed when a species is describe. It is not because the author should
have it easy to illustrate all needed characters. It it because only the
specimen itself form a firm base for the name. All taxonomic work,
identification of next specimens found etc. is in fact testing the
hypothesis that the specimens in your hand are conspecific with the
holotype.  To test that hypothesis, you may re-examine the holotype, extract
new characters which were not stated or illustrated in the original
description etc. Testing the hypothesis and providing the way how to falsify
it is what makes taxonomy a science! In case of the new South African
species, nothing of this is possible - nobody will ever be able to test the
hypothesis that the specimens in hand are conspecific with the holotype (and
no other characters will be ever known than those illustrated on the
photos). This basically moves this paper (and taxonomy in general) REALLY
OUT OF SCIENCE. Hence, this is a step backward, not an innovative way as you
present it.   


I appreciate the effort of Pensoft and ZooKeys to try innovative ways of
taxonomic publishing. However, I would expect that you would think about
your steps and decision properly, evaluating the possible risks of such
steps for the future of taxonomy. I did not notice anything like that in
your actions and decisions within last months, including the publication of
the above paper. Editorial board is never consulted in such cases, and if
the editors provide their critique, this is rarely followed. In opposite,
you recently introduced a system of "bullying" the editors. I understand all
these actions in the way that editors are just workers you use FOR FREE (we
are not paid for that), but never as partners with whom problematic things
should be discussed.


To sum up - by publishing the photo-based description of Marleyimyia,
ZooKeys moves into the position of journals trying to break up the good
practices in taxonomy for the sake of publicity. Its not only "the border of
taxonomic malpractice", it is in fact the "border of non-science". I do not
want to provide my time to the journal going in this really dangerous
direction. That is why I am resigning immediatelly from the editorial board
of ZooKeys.


Thanks for understanding!


With best regards






(name) Vratislav Richard Eugene Maria John Baptist

(surname) of Bejšák (read as a Bayshark)-Colloredo-Mansfeld 

website: www.coleoptera.org

address: P.O.Box 3335 , Redfern, NSW 2016

phone : +61 0420602040
alternate email: bayshark at ymail.com (to iPhone)


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