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Re: Pickering's nomina nuda (was RE: Rob Gay's print-on-demand publication of Kayentavenator elysiae



> For me its not about Pickering or "rogue taxonomists"
> (whatever that may mean) as a larger group. The problem is
> ANYONE using self publishing whether amateur or seasoned
> gray hair. The core problem with self publishing is that
> removes any possibility that a review of the manuscript
> might show it so bad that its publication will be prohibited
> unless, at the very least, major revisions are done. With
> self publishing you can literally do whatever you want. I
> see a need for action to prohibit self publishing as an ICZN
> compliant venue across the board. I know peer review
> (whether for a journal or book) is not an issue for the ICZN
> but it seems critical to me to prevent, in the present state
> of things, an avalanche of names of no value.
> Self-publishing seems to fail to meet other code
> requirements.    
> Dan 

How many of the last 10 years' major cases of scientific misconduct have had 
peer-reviewed papers at their core?

A disconcertingly high proportion.

Peer review, like all human endeavours, can be twisted to suit an unscrupulous 
person's aims - in a nutshell, with today's number of peer-reviewed journals, 
the difficulty for an unscrupulous researcher is mostly in finding a 
sufficiently biased peer-reviewed journal. There are no formal rules requiring 
peer review by an expert *critical* of a study's conclusions, and they'd be 
unenforcable in any case.

The gaffes caused by uncritical interpretation of molecular taxonomic (as 
opposed to "total evidence") studies may stand as a warning. Just yesterday, I 
had to ponder what taxon to use for a particular population of _Aulacorhynchus 
"prasinus"_. Two ways to split up the complex have recently been proposed in 
peer-reviewed papers, one based on phenotype and biogeography, the other based 
on mtDNA and biogeography. Turns out they appear to be *both* wrong - combining 
their data and considering the specimens I had at hand, the evidence of 
significant gene flow across the supposed species limits is impossible to 
dismiss.

This case was completely taxonomic - every relevant population had been named. 
But there are many others (cryptic species complexes, insufficient sampling) 
where analyses of different datasets yield conflicting results that would 
result in nomenclatorial acts based on flimsy evidence. Yet peer review will 
give a paper (and any nomenclatorial acts contained therein) the thumbs-up if 
they are technically sound, if the reviewer has no personal interest in the 
matter.

It is obvious that the situation begs for some sort of review or other 
quality-control process. But I cannot see how the run-of-the-mill peer review 
can handle that task. It can fix the worst excesses, but it is not in and by 
itself an antidote to human vanity and folly - and indeed, peer review can be 
used for malicious purposes (by postponing publishing of a competitor's work 
and/or speeding up publishing of one's own, a la "Rioarribasuchusgate"). So, 
enforcing peer review for nomenclatorial acts will probably significantly 
increase the quality of the pertinent publications, but also the amount of 
cases of blatant unethical conduct.


Regards,

Eike