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

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Tue Sep 22 17:03:21 CDT 2015

I wouldn't take too much notice of Doug's sermon about Wikipedia. It works OK for very simple stuff, but not for anything else. It isn't only vandals and/or crackpots who get blocked from editing. There are many "power games" going on behind the scenes. Everybody wants to do things their way, and nobody likes anyone coming in and making contributions on a significantly large scale. Actually very little taxonomy/biodiversity related stuff gets done now at all on Wikipedia. Doug's own contributions are really loittle more than a drop in an ocean of oceans! The reason why it comes up first in a Google search has nothing whatsoever to do with the quality of content. It is unfortunate that the very first thing a young person might find on a topic could well be a load of Wikipedia rubbish.


On Wed, 23/9/15, Doug Yanega <dyanega at ucr.edu> wrote:

 Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Pre-submission peer-review and online import of specimen records from BOLD
 Cc: "taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
 Received: Wednesday, 23 September, 2015, 9:38 AM
 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,
 > 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
 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 
 journals? My impression is that it is a very small
 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.
 Rauch wrote:
 > How does the
 "peer", as in "peer review", play in
 > 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,
 > 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
 > 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 
 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 
 and crackpots who have tried to set up shop on Wikipedia.
 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
 because nothing would slip through
 the proverbial cracks, and if we 
 the example of Wikipedia for editing policies, your worst
 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 
 (family or higher) into Google. The odds are very good that
 Wikipedia entry will be the top hit, or
 at least one of the top 5. Open 
 Wikipedia article, and see how much of it is legitimately
 (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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