[Taxacom] why Martin Fikacek resign

Donat Agosti agosti at amnh.org
Fri Oct 9 09:05:53 CDT 2015

A related aspect of this fast moving world is not only to almost inhumanly rapid development of our digital and electroni world. We can not only take pictures of organisms at a never seen quality, we can create a huge amount of DNA sequences, but we can make it accessible in large quantities, but more importantly, almost on the spot and thus everybody has immediately access. This is the first time that our science is out there for anybody with Internet access, the science can be reproduced, and with that critized.

This only works because it is Open Access. Even a few years ago, who would have realized that a species is described on images only? Nobody. So, you criticism is a very positive sign of the impact of Open Access to scientific literature.

And it raises more issues. To understand how the editorial process works a next step should be an open peer review process, where all the reviews are posted along a published article. Furthermore, the peer review should be open to anybody, so you have your say. I understand, this will be the case in the new RIO journal (http://riojournal.com/) , and is certainly and issue out in the publishing world. So, instead of leaving Zookeys, it might be better, as Doug suggest, to push this notion from with.
An additional aspect is the issue of citation. Since such an image is so important, we should have a system in place, where we can deposit and archive all the images in an article, and get a DOI that includes all the metadata as well as a link to the image itself as well as the specimen. But we should do more, we should assure, that all the articles cited in the bibliographic references should cited with a DOI that resolves as well to a digital version of it, be it by the original publisher, or for legacy literature through the Biodiversity Literature Repository (http://biolitrepo.org for articles) or the Biodiversity Heritage Library (http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/)  be made accessible. Specimens should also be added with a resolvable identifier, similar to the DNA sequences, audio files etc.

Finally, since we talk about nomenclature as well, we should push Pensoft to expand their publishing workflow to make it mandatory that all the elements needed to create an available name have to be submitted otherwise the ms will not be published. This should also be reflected in the output of the Zookeys, Phytokeys or BDJ that the XML includes all those elements, so that not only the reader, but also machines can check, whether the name is in fact available. This would also allow, that the ms could be submitted in its final stage to Zoobank or IPNI so they mint a unique identifier for the new taxon, and even better for all the nomenclatorial acts, which then would be included in the ms.

This way, our taxonomy will make a big step ahead where the world will not be split between those having access and those not, but making our taxa an integral part of the global knowledge, the global biodiversity knowledge graph or the Linked Open Data Cloud.

Taxonomy has one of the scientific world's most sophisticated publishing system - and we should not be afraid of it, but rather make the extra steps needed to deliver even better output, one that fulfills the claim we have been raising for the last twenty years, that taxonomy is at the basis of conservation and life sciences, and now even more, to link all our knowledge on the worlds species, an essential elements of biodiversity.


-----Original Message-----
From: Taxacom [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Lyubomir Penev
Sent: Thursday, October 8, 2015 4:16 AM
To: bayshark at exemail.com.au; Martin Fikáček <mfikacek at gmail.com>
Cc: Taxa com <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] why Martin Fikacek resign


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 is!

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 AUSTRALIA
> phone : +61 0420602040
> http://www.facebook.com/bayshark
> alternate email: bayshark at ymail.com (to iPhone)
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