[Taxacom] why Martin Fikacek resign

Lyubomir Penev lyubo.penev at gmail.com
Wed Oct 7 21:15:59 CDT 2015


Honestly, I've hesitated a lot before I decided to reply to a post written
in such language. Obviously I have to, as far as the ZooKeys editorial
policies are concerned.​
​ ​

Let me start with the overall misinterpretation of the ZooKeys editorial
policies and the role of ZooKeys editors. As you said (I guess you haven't
been in your best mood to use such wording)  ZooKeys editors are "basically
non-paid slaves with very limited decision power".

Well, well, well....Sorry, but this is the first time I hear about a
journal editorial management system that enslaves a human! All this
automated notification systems do is to keep track on the progress of a
manuscript, inform the authors, reviewers and editors about changes in its
status, send reminders about a task someone has committed to do and that

I know you know that ALL decision power in ZooKeys is in the hands of the
subject editors, even because you have used it for years. There is no - and
never has been - a central authority in ZooKeys who takes a decision on a
publication of a manuscript. It is the subject editors who do that.
Nonetheless, subject editors can of course ask their colleagues or the
Editor-in-Chief for opinion, if they consider necessary.

In this particular case, the manuscript was written by two experienced
dipterists, reviewed by another three experienced dipterists and accepted
by a sixth experienced dipterist after two peer-review rounds. Two of the
reviewers recommended "minor revisions" and one recommended "rejection".

Those who will read the article will note that the authors openly discuss
the pros and cons of their approach, comment the relevant articles of the
Code and are well aware about the reaction their article might provoke. It
is also clear that this is an exceptional case they decided to submit for
review and publication for reasons explained in the paper. It is also
obvious that this case study was expected to open a scientific and ICZN
policy discussion. Sadly, it rather provoked labeling of the kind "bad
science", "non-science", "good and bad entomologists", "crazy individuals"
and so on.

The "danger for the future of taxonomy" will not come from ZooKeys nor from
any other journal, Martin! It will come from those who do not want to look
outside their ivory towers even just to realize that the world around is
changing. How long ago it was when we were hearing the apocalyptic
predictions on the forthcoming chaos in taxonomy caused by electronic
publications? How long we shall consider OTUs as non-existent just because
they are not named?

Sad to hear that this paper was considered as "bad science published for
publicity". I wish more journals had put such efforts in publicity for
taxonomy as ZooKeys does. Probably the taxonomy wouldn't be in such
"danger" then.


On Wed, Oct 7, 2015 at 11:44 AM, <bayshark at exemail.com.au> wrote:

> https://www.facebook.com/martin.fikacek.7/posts/10206448754731807
> 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
> photograph!!!)
> (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
> Martin
> Vratislav
> (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
> http://www.facebook.com/bayshark
> alternate email: bayshark at ymail.com (to iPhone)
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Dr. Lyubomir Penev
Managing Director
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