[Taxacom] another ebay auction of naming rights

Anthony Gill gill.anthony at gmail.com
Mon Oct 19 18:39:01 CDT 2015


Oops, that link got truncated. It should be
http://sydney.edu.au/news/84.html?newsstoryid=12977

On Tue, Oct 20, 2015 at 10:36 AM, Anthony Gill <gill.anthony at gmail.com>
wrote:

> 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.
>
> Tony
>
> On Tue, Oct 20, 2015 at 10:15 AM, John Grehan <calabar.john at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>
>> 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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>> >
>> > Celebrating 28 years of Taxacom in 2015.
>> >
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>> Celebrating 28 years of Taxacom in 2015.
>>
>
>
>
> --
> Dr Anthony C. Gill
> Natural History Curator
> A12 Macleay Museum
> University of Sydney
> NSW 2006
> Australia.
>
> Ph. +61 02 9036 6499
>
>



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

Ph. +61 02 9036 6499



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