[Taxacom] Pre-submission peer-review and online import of specimen records from BOLD

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Tue Sep 22 16:38:42 CDT 2015

On 9/22/15 12:50 PM, Neal Evenhuis wrote:
> No Doug, the problem is not the print journals. They do what businesses do
> -- they make money.
> The problem(s) are academic systems that evaluate their professors on the
> basis of the journals they publish in (the higher impact the better). That
> has resulted in the "Big Power Publishers" to have academics by the
> short-and-curlies (actually more like racketeering) and can thus charge
> oodles of money to subscribe and authors are forced to shy away from
> online only/low impact journals in order to get high ranking, rewards,
> evals, etc.
> Once the evaluation system for taxonomists changes, taxonomists can feel
> free to publish elsewhere than high impact print journals because they are
> no longer being held hostage by the current academic evaluation system.
I'm not trying to be overly contentious, as I do see your point, but: 
can anyone offer any statistics to back this up? Specifically, if you 
ignore fossil taxa entirely, just for the moment, what percentage of all 
cumulative taxonomic works, worldwide, appear in legitimately "high 
impact" journals? My impression is that it is a very small percentage; 
in fact, for many of the taxonomists I know (mostly working on 
arthropods), if they stopped publishing in their present journals of 
choice and switched to, say, Zootaxa or ZooKeys, their impact factor 
would probably go UP rather than down. I honestly don't think I've ever 
heard of a taxonomist (who did not work on fossils) whose job was 
imperiled by the low impact factor of their publications, as opposed to 
how much grant money they brought in, or some other less arbitrary 
criteria. As such, while I have little doubt it exists, I have to wonder 
just how serious a force this is behind our present predicament.

Peter Rauch wrote:
> How does the "peer", as in "peer review", play in this
> still-vaguely-described "open access" process ?
> What mechanism(s) would be needed / useful to deal with the presumably huge
> number of "reviews" of also-presumably still-not-published draft documents ?
> It's easy enough to say that poor quality reviews can simply be ignored, or
> can be put to rest handily by other, more competent reviewers. But, that
> itself implies that there will be such more competent reviewers who will
> indeed have the time and patience to read, think about, and comment on
> those incompetent reviews.
> I understand --I think!?!-- the notion of removing physical paper from the
> final production process, and I understand --I think-- the notion of "open
> access" to information.
> What I am asking about is what will be the mechanisms to address the
> then-open floodgates to gratuitous(?) commentary on draft works such that a
> "fair" (and authoritative / professional) handling of all that input is
> possible ?

Open resources like Wikipedia deal with this easily, and admirably, and 
routinely. Any Wikipedia article has one visible manifestation, open to 
editing, while commentary goes on a linked "talk page". The editing 
history is timestamped, and visible, and subject to reversion to 
previous versions if necessary - as is the talk page. There are many 
rules in place regarding proper editing procedures and especially 
etiquette, and editors who cannot abide by those rules (e.g., vandalism) 
have their edits reverted, or if they are persistent and disruptive, 
they can be banned (short-term or long-term), as has happened to many 
trolls and crackpots who have tried to set up shop on Wikipedia. That 
kind of behavior is spotted and weeded out very quickly, because there 
are lots of eyes watching. The floodgates on Wikipedia are already open 
- to the entire world, in fact - and yet it functions quite well, 
because it is self-policing, based on explicit policies. Transparency 
and inclusivity go a long way, and synergize well. Articles on WP 
increase in quality, ratchet-like, over time, and setbacks are always 
only temporary. If you had a single public review forum that included 
all of the world's taxonomists, then it would function wonderfully well, 
because nothing would slip through the proverbial cracks, and if we 
followed the example of Wikipedia for editing policies, your worst fears 
about gratuitous commentary would not be realized.

I suggest this challenge for those of you who are skeptical: take a 
moment right now to enter the name of a higher-level taxon you know very 
well (family or higher) into Google. The odds are very good that a 
Wikipedia entry will be the top hit, or at least one of the top 5. Open 
the Wikipedia article, and see how much of it is legitimately inaccurate 
(not incomplete - that is unavoidable - or slightly out-of-date, I mean 
actual factual errors as in "this is not true now and never has been 
true"). It should be pretty rare to find such errors, and it would be 
even rarer if more taxonomists spent more time on Wikipedia. 
Self-policing is an approach that can and does work, and works better 
and better with increasing community buy-in. I maintain that the same 
would apply to online review of scientific works.


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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