[Taxacom] another ebay auction of naming rights

Anthony Gill gill.anthony at gmail.com
Mon Oct 19 18:36:26 CDT 2015

I haven't followed all of the discussion on this thread, but felt Doug made
some interesting points. I helped describe a couple of the species featured
in Conservation International's Blue Auction a few years back (which raised
money for a marine park in West Papua). There is a flipside too. If someone
fronts a ton of money for a species name, what happens if that name ends up
being a junior synonym of another species? Some disclaimer needs to be made
apparent to the bidders that this may well happen.

I think John's points are interesting too. I currently offer species naming
as an activity for school groups that visit the Macleay Museum. I show
photos of a new species and talk to the kids about taxonomy and the process
of naming species. They then get to nominate and vote on potential names,
and I come up with a name based on the winning nomination (e.g.,
http://sydney.edu.au/news/84.html?newsstoryid=1297). There's no financial
gain, but hopefully it encourages kids to appreciate taxonomy. However, the
potential of naming species after institutional doners has been raised a
few times by my bosses and I suspect it's just a matter of time before I
get a little extra pressure to do just that.


On Tue, Oct 20, 2015 at 10:15 AM, John Grehan <calabar.john at gmail.com>

> 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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Dr Anthony C. Gill
Natural History Curator
A12 Macleay Museum
University of Sydney
NSW 2006

Ph. +61 02 9036 6499

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