[Taxacom] "law enforcement, professional ethics, taxonomy, and nomenclature" Re: Taxacom Digest, Vol 173, Issue 10

Douglas Yanega dyanega at gmail.com
Sun Sep 27 13:20:01 CDT 2020

On 9/27/20 1:10 AM, Hinrich Kaiser via Taxacom wrote:
> These are complex questions that tangle with law enforcement, professional ethics, taxonomy, and nomenclature.
This sort of problem exists outside of nomenclature, unfortunately. 
Everything else in this list applies, however, and - in an ideal world - 
no paper based on material collected in violation of international law 
would make it past peer review, and that would be the final word. The 
world is far less than ideal, of course, and even in the unlikely event 
that one of the 3 or 4 referees a given paper passes through DOES notice 
something suspicious, and prevent publication, there are always other 
journals, or self-publication.
>   I think most would agree that illegal specimens should not be used to describe species and institutions should certainly not assist by "laundering" such material. However, there really is no path to fix something like this, or is there?

Again, the only path lies in the reaction of the community. Such names 
are generally going to be available and valid under the ICZN, but as 
many - including yourself - have noted, the taxonomic community is free 
to take an ethical stand even when it is not based upon Code-compliance. 
If there is consensus that a given name should NOT be recognized because 
it violates *community standards* (rather than Code standards), that 
decision lies with the community, not with the ICZN.

I realize that many have criticized the Commission for a perceived 
unwillingness to implement rules regarding ethics and scientific 
integrity into the Code. However:

(1) Some of you will recall that Commissioner Mark Harvey and I 
solicited feedback from the community a number of years ago, on the 
issue of whether the ICZN should incorporate some or all of Appendix A 
of the Code (the "Code of Ethics") into the legal body of the Code, and 
the response at that time was remarkably underwhelming, so the issue was 
shelved. We were looking for evidence of broad community support for 
rules that could potentially allow cases to be brought to the Commission 
whereby the Commission could declare a name unavailable (or a work as 
unpublished) if there was clear evidence provided for a breach of these 
rules, but we saw virtually no sign then that there WAS broad community 
support; the majority of positive responses were from herpetologists, 
which is only one small portion of the taxonomic community. That being 
said, "shelved" is not the same thing as "discarded forever" - the 
Commission, I believe, stands ready to reconsider this IF and WHEN there 
is clear indication that *broad community support* exists for change.

(2) The Code represents a tool, containing a set of standards, with 
which to evaluate certain parameters surrounding the publication of a 
work and nomenclatural acts therein. The use of this tool, and adherence 
to those standards, is a matter of *voluntary* compliance. In certain 
fundamental respects, this is very similar to enterprises like 
Wikipedia, where there *are* explicit standards, pages and pages of 
them, and adherence to those standards is enforced by *self-policing*. 
As a case in point, among Wikipedia's standards is a rather firm (though 
not absolute) prohibition on the use of self-published sources, as well 
as an absolute prohibition on plagiarism, and likewise a prohibition on 
the use of the medium to insult or defame people. Why not follow this 
example? There is literally nothing stopping the taxonomic community 
from drafting and implementing a SECOND set of rules that complement the 
ICZN; as long as these rules are built by consensus, and enforced by 
consensus, then violations of these rules can be treated consistently 
across the entire taxonomic spectrum, and act in ADDITION to the rules 
of the ICZN.

(3) The present mechanism of journal publication and anonymous peer 
review is, fairly clearly, outmoded and inefficient, especially 
vulnerable to both abuse and failure. Alternatives could - and probably 
SHOULD - be considered that address and fix the shortcomings of the 
existing system. Case in point: it would not be *technically* very 
difficult to implement a distributed online review system through which 
all of the world's experts on tarantula taxonomy - indeed, all of the 
world's spider taxonomists - would have the opportunity to review every 
paper submitted, anywhere, dealing with tarantula taxonomy. That would 
go a very long way to resolving problems such as Carlos raised.

The point I am trying to make is that if you don't think the present 
system adequately addresses issues like law enforcement and professional 
ethics, then you can act to *change the system*, in any of a number of ways.


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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