[Taxacom] another ebay auction of naming rights

Paul Kirk P.Kirk at kew.org
Wed Oct 21 19:18:48 CDT 2015

Before anything can be discussed 'we' need a well defined, unambiguous, mutually exclusive, understood and accepted by all ... bla, bla, bla ... definition of the 'c' word - commercial! Otherwise we have the equivalent of the botanists/mycologist/phycologist discussing with the zoologist the difference between nomenclature and taxonomy/classification w.r.t. the label applied to a combination (cf. the thread on author citations).


p.s. good luck with the definition :-)
From: Taxacom <taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> on behalf of Doug Yanega <dyanega at ucr.edu>
Sent: 21 October 2015 19:32
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] another ebay auction of naming rights

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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