[Taxacom] why Martin Fikacek resign

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Wed Oct 7 17:28:18 CDT 2015


Martin:

If I might, let me comment on a few things:
(1) this fly is not the first animal species described solely from a 
photograph, nor even the first insect (as far as I can tell, that honor 
goes to Bebearia banksi, a nymphalid described in 1998 - with thanks to 
Cosmin Manci for pointing that out to me), so it does not set a 
precedent; it is simply one of a growing list.
(2) the authors did not attempt to conceal the facts of the case, or 
(for example) refer to a deposited specimen which never existed, so the 
work cannot be dismissed as fraudulent in any way.
(3) if you are concerned about people naming new species based on 
limited or potentially fabricated evidence even though the Code allows 
for it, then why not submit a letter to the Commission (with a few 
thousand signatories, preferably) in favor of amending the Code in such 
a way as to help prevent what you see as being abusive? For example, 
establishing a strict set of guidelines for public review of taxonomic 
works, which must be met before a name will be considered available 
under the Code, rather than simply accepting as available virtually 
anything that meets the Code's definition of "published"? I and others - 
including other Commissioners - have been advocating this sort of change 
for years now, and oddly there seems to be little public support for 
such measures. Would you not like to be able to cast a vote for or 
against any given proposed new name BEFORE being compelled to recognize 
it? [Case in point: had such a mechanism existed, I would have voted 
against Bebearia banksi, and in favor of Marleyimyia xylocopae]
(4) if you are specifically concerned with issues of quality control in 
the editorial process at Zookeys, then I might think you'd have a better 
chance of effecting change by remaining within the system, and pushing 
for a dialogue on editorial policy there, rather than resigning your 
post. That is, admittedly, just my two cents as an outsider.

As I've noted elsewhere, this particular case was well-documented, and 
passed what I assume to be a rigorous peer-review process. The authors 
made a compelling case that this is a new taxon, at the very least, and 
that is more than I can say for many other recent taxonomic works I've 
seen for which type specimens DO exist. I rather suspect that the 
editors and reviewers were entirely prepared to reject this paper had it 
not appeared to be a "safe bet" to them, and therefore would not judge 
them as harshly as you appear to be doing. Had this work been authored 
by someone with no credentials, in a journal with no peer review, I 
would probably be condemning it, as well; but the Code does not allow us 
to judge cases by their merits before accepting new names, just by 
compliance or lack thereof, and at times this can be a problem. If we as 
a community are concerned about possible abuses of the Code, and we WANT 
to judge cases based on their merits, then the solution is to change the 
system - specifically, such that good science will flourish, /and bad 
science will be rejected/. That much is in our power, it just takes 
will, commitment, and consensus. Perhaps some day there will be a 
critical mass of taxonomists who are fed up enough to push for this sort 
of change, but I've been pushing for 20 years now, and it still seems to 
be all uphill.

Sincerely,

-- 
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)
              http://cache.ucr.edu/~heraty/yanega.html
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82




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