[Taxacom] another ebay auction of naming rights

John Grehan calabar.john at gmail.com
Mon Oct 19 18:15:05 CDT 2015

I thought Doug Yanega brought up some very pertinent issues. I would also
add whether there might be a situation where an institution might require
of its own taxonomy staff to put all new species up for auction as a way to
derive income (probably small in most cases) for that institution (and
possibly also benefit with continued publicity).

While no one may get personally rich from NSF grants it is my understanding
(perhaps erroneous)  that in at least some universities career advancement
and even salary level is tied to success with NSF grants (so that in a
sense some of the overhead ends up contributing to salary).

John Grehan

On Mon, Oct 19, 2015 at 5:03 PM, Doug Yanega <dyanega at ucr.edu> wrote:

> On 10/19/15 10:42 AM, John Grehan wrote:
>> I wonder if the
>> "biologist" Dave Goulson is a taxonomist, and if so, presumably he has all
>> the funding he needs so he does not have to contemplate such
>> possibilities.
>> John Grehan
>> FYI: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Goulson
> I'm not disputing the sorry state of taxonomy funding, but I also don't
> find the present debate to be as black-and-white as some see it. If a new
> species is *actually new*, I have no other objective concern beyond that,
> either as a taxonomist or as an ICZN Commissioner. HOWEVER, that being
> said, if the creation of a new taxon name involves - at some level -
> actions which can be construed as genuinely unethical, then every
> scientist, regardless of discipline, should be concerned. There is nothing
> *inherently* unethical in auctioning off a name, so I see no inherent
> problem. But if the species involved is, say, one which someone else was
> already in the process of naming, or if the winning bidder attempts to
> impose a name which is deliberately offensive (to a named person, nation,
> or ethnic group), then that sort of subjective concern would change the
> equation. Neither a blanket prohibition nor a carte blanche approach is
> suitable; auctions, like many things, need to be viewed primarily
> *case-by-case*, with all the details known up front.
> The *only* generalized concern (other than validity of taxa, and ethics) I
> think we might need to address as a community is one I've alluded to other
> times this topic has come up: namely, given that the specimens that form
> the basis of modern taxonomy are, primarily, borrowed property, would we
> (or could we, or should we) collectively draw a line as to who benefits
> from the proceeds of a name sale, and how much?? Right now, if a taxonomist
> has an NSF grant and does a revision using borrowed specimens, they don't
> give any of that NSF money to the institutions whose specimens they
> borrowed - but bear in mind that those NSF funds do not cover much more
> than personal support for the taxonomist and maybe a student or two, plus
> overhead; no one gets personally rich writing NSF grants. If the situation
> were changed so that same taxonomist derived all their financial support by
> auctioning names, would that be any different? Would it make a difference
> if an auction was performed without the express permission of the
> institution that owned the holotype? Would it matter if the author were
> making a profit *above and beyond* the level of personal support? Would
> this possibly cause a taxonomist to borrow specimens selectively from
> institutions who loan specimens without any strings attached, versus
> institutions that pre-emptively put policies in place requiring
> profit-sharing (in cases where there was profit)? Would it breed
> destructive professional jealousy if dinosaur and vertebrate and butterfly
> name auctions raked in huge amounts of money, while other taxonomic
> disciplines couldn't even get enough public interest to recoup their costs
> (and also thereby further "drain" potential taxonomists away from the less
> glamorous taxa)?
> My answer, to all of these, is "*It might*." In that respect, I would say
> that it is questions like these that might be worth our time discussing,
> rather than the present theme. Basically, I feel the discussion would be
> more constructive if it were rephrased as "Can we benefit from name
> auctions AND do so without disrupting or compromising good science across
> all our disciplines?" Name auctions are here, and have been for some time,
> so if there is a need for discussion, then let's focus on ways to maximize
> their positive impacts, and minimize the negative.
> 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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