[Taxacom] another ebay auction of naming rights The Last Word

metzlere at msu.edu metzlere at msu.edu
Tue Oct 27 10:01:23 CDT 2015


Dear Taxacomers: 

 Because the auction for the moth name was associated with my name I did not participate in the debate during the auction. Nonetheless the comments were informative and useful. 

 It must be noted that I did not conduct the auction. The auction was conducted by the Western National Parks Association with the approval of the National Park Service. I volunteered my services to work with the winning bidder to come up with a suitable name that neither violates my code of ethics nor does it violate the National Park Services’ code of ethics for volunteer scientists. The National Park Service’s code of ethics parallels what I learned at Michigan State University in the middle 1960s and it parallels my practices today. 

 I started a discussion on Taxacom some weeks ago about how to raise funds for self funded taxonomists. Doug Yanega had many words of wisdom and caution which I took strongly to heart. Dan Jansen encouraged me to find someone with deep pockets. 

 I consulted with the lawyers, ethics officers, and science advisors to the National Park Service. I was told it is illegal for me to solicit funding for my research in the national parks. It is clearly against federal law for me to do so.  BUMMER! The big bucks just flew out the window. 

 By talking to lots of people and asking lots of questions in the hierarchy of the National Park Service my suspicions were confirmed that the National Park Service owns the moth. I was given the option of donating my services to a charitable organization, not just any charity, but a charity that is supportive of the National Park Service. I was encouraged to take this course of action, and because the Western National Parks Association gave me some seed money several years ago I selected that charity. With many bureaucratic approvals from the National Park Service I decided to give a name to the Western National Park Association. They chose to auction the name as a fundraiser. Nobody expected the amount of publicity or the worldwide attention, perhaps prompting the debate on Taxacom. 

 I did NOT auction the name. According to National Park Service rules I had to be at arms length from the entire process. I had to limit the number of times I visited eBay to check on the status of the auction. I still do not know who won the auction. 

 Two issues during the debate caught my attention. NUMBER ONE: selling names. This name was not sold, however names are regularly sold. Some museums, such as the natural history museum in Ottawa match potential donors with scientists to obtain donations in support of the Museum’s missions. Normally these transactions take place well below the radar and scrutiny of the public and Taxacom. 

 NUMBER TWO: commercial value. Every person receiving a paycheck or other remuneration for doing taxonomic work is engaged in commerce. The persons receiving the paycheck are selling their services in exchange for some kind of productivity, in this case of many Taxacomers,  taxonomic work. The person who arranges tours can claim there is no commercial activity, however the act of collecting money in exchange for the tour is commerce. All protesting aside about the relative ethics of money exchanging hands for services performed does not change the facts. When I deduct the costs of my charitable contributions to the National Park Service on my income taxes, that is commerce. 

 I do not intend to reopen the debate, these two points required clarification. 

 Lastly I was informed by the National Park Service that I cannot solicit funds in support of my research on National Park Service property. I am not allowed to chase the deep pockets. I am not allowed to ask for money from anyone or any organization. I am only allowed to go broke while I am doing this. DOUBLE BUMMER !! 

Thanks to all my good friends on Taxacom for shedding light on this potentially sticky wicket. 

 Now I have to get back to work and describe the moth that was in the auction. 

 Cheers, Eric 

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