[Taxacom] Electronic publication

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Tue Jan 10 12:47:36 CST 2017

You missed my point.  Minimally Code-compliant descriptions have ALWAYS been an option. And of course, yes, they happen from time to time.  The question is whether they would happen in a more damaging way or less damaging way if they occurred within a central registry that everyone has access too, as opposed to laser printers scattered around the world.  Indeed, if done within the registry, we have the option of raising the bar to whatever level the community wants (e.g., mandatory peer review, etc.)  As long as names become available through "publication" (which modern technology has now allowed to become increasingly easy to do for oneself, and which is increasingly ambiguous in terms of establishing actual dates of availability for purposes of priority), the problems we see now will only continue to get worse.

Perhaps part of the problem is that people put too much prestige on the Code-compliant naming of new organisms, whereas the prestige really belongs with the *description* (i.e., scientific documentation) of new organisms.  People don't get career-level prestige for registering sequences in GenBank.  Their careers are based on the science they do with those gene sequences. Why shouldn't it be the same way with names?

The only argument I'm aware of that suggests a system like I am advocating would cause more harm than good is the notion of "security through obscurity".  That is, part of the reason we don't see more harmful examples of minimally Code-compliant names through self-publication is that would-be unscrupulous people don't know that they can *already* do so.  The concern is that shifting the existing option to minimally self-published new names to an official registration system would shine a spotlight on the option, and the floodgates would open.  That's why I think the registration system would benefit from some additional rigor built into it (such as the open peer-review system along the lines of what Doug Yanega has advocated).

If all nomenclatural acts were required to flow through the registration system, disambiguated from publication, there would be the potential for much higher-quality control compared to the system that has existed until now.  This translates to greater control over the process, which seems to me to be what Hinrich is advocating for.


Richard L. Pyle, PhD
Database Coordinator for Natural Sciences | Associate Zoologist in Ichthyology | Dive Safety Officer
Department of Natural Sciences, Bishop Museum, 1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI 96817
Ph: (808)848-4115, Fax: (808)847-8252 email: deepreef at bishopmuseum.org

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Stephen Thorpe [mailto:stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz]
> Sent: Monday, January 9, 2017 3:59 PM
> To: 'Hinrich Kaiser'; 'Scott Thomson'; deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
> Cc: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Subject: RE: [Taxacom] Electronic publication
> Oh, so, if I understand you correctly, you are actually saying that you ARE
> indeed taking minimally code compliant descriptions of new taxa out of the
> publication metrics system! The idea appears to be that any taxonomist
> worth the title when then publish much fuller (re)descriptions in the usual
> way. But this is potentially problematic. I don't think Hinrich will like the idea,
> for it means that Code compliance results from minimal descriptions, which
> is all good for the likes of Hoser, etc. Besides, at the end of the day
> taxonomists are taxonomists, but other scientists (systematists,
> phylogeneticists, ecologists, etc.) simply use the output of taxonomists for
> other purposes. So, now they can easily make new names available in
> minimalist fashion and then charge ahead and use those names for other
> purposes! I don't see quality control on new names made available in
> minimalist fashion? Where is the peer review on the generation of new
> names?
> Stephen
> --------------------------------------------
> On Tue, 10/1/17, Richard Pyle <deepreef at bishopmuseum.org> wrote:
>  Subject: RE: [Taxacom] Electronic publication
>  To: "'Stephen Thorpe'" <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>, "'Hinrich Kaiser'"
> <chalcopis at yahoo.com>, "'Scott Thomson'"
> <scott.thomson321 at gmail.com>
>  Cc: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
>  Received: Tuesday, 10 January, 2017, 2:41 PM
>  > Well, the slight
>  potential problem with that idea, or so it seems to me, is  that  > either an
> accompanying publication  is necessary for new name availability or  > not.
>  According to the idea as I outlined it: not.
>  > If not, then why would
>  publishers bother to publish
>  >
>  descriptions of new taxa that are already made available by  other means?
>  Because the
>  vast majority of all scientific descriptions of new taxa are  about the science
> of taxonomy, not about the legal Code  requirements.  Only a tiny minority
> of the text in  scientific descriptions is necessary to confer Code
> compliance.  Publishers publish new species descriptions  because they
> represent important science.  Peer reviewers  review the papers on the
> scientific basis.  Publishers  should require that descriptions of new taxa
> include  references to the registration of the new names (in much the  same
> way that publishers often require citation of GenBank  Accession numbers
> when gene sequences are cited).
>  Any publisher that would fail
>  to publish an article describing the scientific aspects of a  new taxon simply
> because the publication itself was no  longer required by the ICZN Code,
> would absolutely NOT be  worth publishing in anyway.  Such a perspective
> would  represent a gross misunderstanding of the respective roles  of science
> and the Code in the realm of taxonomy.
>  > What happens if a new
>  name is made available "entirely within the  > registration system", but for
> some  reason it doesn't also get published?
>  In what way is this different
>  from a self-published manuscript that minimally contains the  information
> necessary to establish a new name in the sense  of the existing Code?  (other
> than the fact that the  registration record would be easily discoverable, but
> the  self-published MS would not).
>  Nothing is stopping anyone from doing exactly  what I described, except in
> the form of an obscure  self-published work, rather than controlled and
> publicly  visible registration system.  Yet, it rarely happens,  because the vast
> majority of taxonomists care about their  scientific reputations.  Such
> reputations are built on  providing quality science according to scientific
> publication standards.  This would not change.
>  We cling to
>  "publication" in the context of establishing new  scientific names as if it
> somehow represents some form of  quality control; when of course we all
> know or at least  SHOULD know) that it does not (anyone who thinks it does,
> either doesn't understand how what the Code requirements  actually are, or
> doesn't understand the divers nature of  "publication" in its modern form).
>  Aloha,
>  Rich

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