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Re: Nomina nuda and crap species
"To what extent is it reasonable to assume that these people, who come
at paleo purely as a hobby, have responsibilities for understanding the
good practices and the rules governing the field?"
They have no responsibility to learn about the code, although
understanding some basics will help one get more out what one reads and
see. The code, like any legal codex, can be difficult to understand at
times. Someone who wants to publish a paper naming new taxa or
undertaking other nomenclatorial acts, does have that responsibility.
However, if an interest enthusiast doesn't understand the fundamental
issues concerning creating new taxa they will remain bewildered about
the debates and might think that scientists are just "elitists", a term
I have seen thrown around in some discussions. If names can be created
willy-nilly without restraint, the result is chaos and effective
communication about identification, diversity, and phylogeny will be
very, very difficult.
Rob Taylor wrote:
I've been following these threads on the DML and over at SV-POW! with
great interest, not to mention a little dismay, since things have
grown a tad heated of late. As it happens, I've enjoyed cordial
correspondence with - and learned a tremendous amount from - both
dedicated amateurs and professional paleontologists alike. The former
group includes some self-publishers, and while I recognize that
serious issues are being raised here that warrant discussion, it would
seem that in this, of all fields, said discussions should be more
evolutionary than devolutionary in nature.
In his recent post, Graeme Worth raises an issue I've long pondered,
and because I hope it spurs some additional discussion, I thought I'd
toss the perspective of another layperson into the ring. Dinosaur
paleontology seems to stand out in terms of having a following of hard
core enthusiasts who simply want to learn more. I'm a textbook example
of the sort of person Graeme described in his post. A collector and a
completist by nature (as well as someone who loves to organize, sort,
collate...), I want to know not only about every dinosaur and
pterosaur, but also about every dinosaur and pterosaur name, ever to
have been published. (This excludes fictitious ones, of course. I
follow Olshevsky's rule for his Dinosaur Genera List in that a name
has to be based on actual skeletal material to be of interest).
Consequently, for me, identifying and getting my hands on, say, a
popular book that includes half a dozen nicknames for as yet
unpublished dinos is just as important as nabbing the next
peer-reviewed journal article that erects a new genus and species.
True, I learn much more from the latter, but the collector in me sees
them as equally important. So, is this pursuit misguided? I certainly
hope it isn't. It's of interest to me, and serves to further my
knowledge, so I'm hard-pressed to see it as a bad thing.
That said, for the professional, I'm sure herein lies some of the
hazards of our age. The Internet, the open access movement, and public
forums like the DML (not to mention your own good will and outreach
efforts!) have done wonders toward making learning accessible to
anyone who has an interest. That's a good thing, but I'm certain there
are a lot of beginners out there who don't recognize the consequences
if a name from a dissertation, for example, is bandied about freely
via email or on public forums. (As a disconcerting aside, it's with
surprising frequency that I receive from fellow enthusiasts - always
unsolicited, mind you - unpublished and often unsubmitted manuscripts.
How these are acquired I have no idea, but whenever it happens, I
respond to the sender and strongly suggest that they stick the PDF in
a folder marked 'Quarantine' and leave it the Hell alone until the
paper is formally published.)
Anyway, Dan Chure's suggestion that it's worth learning about the ICZN
Code is perfectly valid, and I think it would hold value for anyone
with a serious interest in the field. But it's important to remember
that professionals don't hold a monopoly on learning about a subject
of interest. I'm sure I'm not alone in being a casual, if
serious-minded enthusiast who performs independent research for the
sheer enjoyment of furthering my knowledge. To what extent is it
reasonable to assume that these people, who come at paleo purely as a
hobby, have responsibilities for understanding the good practices and
the rules governing the field? I dunno. I for one try to do no harm,
and recognizing my limitations, attempt to limit my posts on the DML
to those that have at least a little substance and might be of
interest to a reosonable number of readers. Personally, my interest in
the field is great enough that I did take the time to familiarize
myself with the Code, but I'm not sure if it's a reasonable
expectation for all enthusiasts.
Returning to Graeme's point, it has always seemed to me that once
these names are out there, there's really no turning back. People will
indeed find them - they will ask about them, blog about them, discuss
them... Dissertation names aside, I've never really understood why
there's a perception that interest in nomina nuda should be deflected.
For dinosaur novices and casual researchers, list compilers like
Olshevsky (and I might add, also capable dinosaur software developers
like Graeme) serve a very valuable function in providing an excellent
jumping off point for conducting lit searches and learning more. It
seems to me that including nomina nuda in these venues, provided that
they are clearly identified as such so the status of the each name is
made clear, can only help. Is there something we're missing?
----- Original Message ----- From: "Dan Chure" <email@example.com>
Sent: Saturday, June 12, 2010 4:28 AM
Subject: Re: Nomina nuda and crap species
Spend some time learning about the Code of Zoological Nomenclature.
That is as least as important as collecting names.
Graeme Worth wrote:
There seems to me to be a point in all this that has not been
addressed. Much as we all abhor the proliferation of these "nonsense"
taxa, ignoring them and pretending they don't exist does not seem
particularly helpful. The names will still be there, in whatever
newspaper, self-published brochure, webpage, forum discussion etc. In
most cases, the original report does not contain anything indicating
that these taxa have not been properly diagnosed or should not have
been named. So what does the dinosaur beginner do with these taxa? He
will find them, of that you can be certain. If all he finds is the
original report, how is he expected to make a judgement? Would it not
be better to accept these taxa and include them in appropriate lists
with appropriate comments pointing out the shortfalls and indicating
that these should not be considered valid taxa?
Over to you
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