[Taxacom] another ebay auction of naming rights

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Wed Oct 21 13:32:52 CDT 2015

This topic has come up for discussion today among the ICZN 
Commissioners, and a few who are not on Taxacom had some significant 
comments. Philippe Bouchet first raised the following point, and Sven 
Kullander has let me forward this follow-up from him:

"Especially in the light of the Nagoya Protocol on ABS, the future of 
taxonomy largely depends on it being considered non-commercial. The sale 
of nomenclatural acts is certainly not non-commercial, and may further 
complicate negotiations for international transfer of samples, field 
work, and the reputation of taxonomists as providing service for the 
Common Good. (The US has not signed the ABS protocol, but will most 
likely respect it.)"

The point he mentions (that Philippe first raised) is one that has not 
been previously emphasized here; if it becomes widely perceived that 
taxonomy is a commercial enterprise (even if not for profit, it IS still 
commercial as most people define it), the entire taxonomic community may 
suffer from the backlash, even if the backlash is not deserved. But we 
are not really in a position to divorce ourselves from it, either, even 
if individual institutions do not engage in the practice of auctions. 
After all, if Museum X loans specimens to Museum Y, and Museum Y runs an 
auction using some of those specimens, then Museum X has been involved 
in an act of commerce. No institution-based researcher collecting 
specimens can guarantee that none of their specimens will ever be used 
for such purposes.

Every package of specimens I mail has a big label on it saying "NO 
COMMERCIAL VALUE" - but that ceases to be true, at least in some 
people's view, I'm sure, if they are used as the basis for an auction. 
While WE might see a distinction, or nuance, public perception counts 
for a LOT, and public perception is easily swayed and frequently 
overzealous; as bad as the situation with the Moustached Kingfisher 
specimen is, imagine how much worse the PR would be if that was a new 
species, and the specimen was associated with a name auction.
This is a significant argument opposing the use of auctions as a 
fund-raising tool, and it is hard to see a good way to counteract this, 
because it is rather fundamental in that we ask for all sorts of legal 
provisions that distinguish academia from commerce, and this does indeed 
undermine that distinction.


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)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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