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RE: Pickering's nomina nuda (was RE: Rob Gay's print-on-demand publication of Kayentavenator elysiae
Been watching this and thinking a lot about it and I approach this from the
position of someone who really tries to avoid nomenclatural stuff in my work
- in many ways because of many things touched upon during this thread. But
want to add the two cents of someone who does not come at this with great
passion for any specific way of doing things, I just want everything to work
for the good of the total effort as I love the subject matter.
The discussion of quality of work etc reminds me of the old discussions many
used with pornography - can't define it but know it when we see it - that
many used and still use as a guideline. Of course, many of their opinions
were and are, imho, total crap and they can go to hell as far as I'm
concerned before they should have the right to restrict anything I can view
because so many considered as pornography anything that they personally
disagreed with and used this approach as a sledgehammer to censor.
So we have a continuum of types of publication that can be relevant, and
within that continuum, lots of range/variation in quality of the work at
lots of levels. I can look at that work and see what I consider to be crap
and would suggest is not worth serious consideration and it is obvious that
others on the list feel the same way. The problem, of course, is that they
do not, I presume, overlap completely. I don't know the work of this
Pickering chap so don't read any statement of mine as directed towards that
or any specific body of work.
The problem is that there are lots of traps we must avoid falling into as
this discourse (in the big sense) progresses. First of all, we have to avoid
defining who has the right to publish in this area. We need to have an
established set of rules and evaluate any work that follows those rules. If
we really narrow the people who can play the game, we cut out much of the
ability for it to evolve. This leads to the next trap, having vague or
outdated rules that just don't work in today's techno driven world. These
must evolve and evolve at a decent pace as the situation requires. Finally,
we need to avoid the trap of restricted access to the results of the work.
If an important paper is published somewhere where it takes thousands of
dollars to get access to it, then it is no better, regardless of the peer
review, than self-published work. In the old days it was always so
frustrating trying to get a copy of something published in certain
journals/books that were effectively restricted in their access because they
were so pricey - and for no apparent reason.
So, anyone who follows the rules has the right to publish and suggest what
they want to. Deal with it. It's more of a pain now because the number of
people who want to do it has exploded and there is a great influx of papers.
It's the cost of the excitement we are living though as more and more stuff
comes out. The rules need to make it easy to work through this and establish
a consensus that can evolve as this new material comes out.
So the real villain in this is really the ICZN because they evolve at a rate
that makes the SCA look incredibly progressive by comparison. They were
considered slow - plodding - in the 1970's and now have devolved to being
pretty much worthless. We need to fix that and the rest will be taken care
of, although there will always be lots of stuff to go through. Make the
requirements more restrictive in productive ways - greatly increase the
number of copies that must be distributed, define peer review amounts and
how it must be done. Not easy the latter, but if it was we wouldn't be
having this discussion.
Two final observations. I have worked on trilobites and their taxonomy has
never recovered fully from Charles Elmo Resser's work, mostly on Cambrian
forms - and he followed the rules to a T. There must be some way to deal
with awful work without it being defined as requiring membership in a club.
Resser would have been president of the club. Next, when Greg's Predatory
Dinosaurs came out many saw it as a taxonomic catastrophe because of his
many taxonomic relevant observations and suggestions contained in the work.
Somehow we all lived and I suspect the book inspired, in its own way, a few
of the people working now.
So, just deal with it and push for the rules to be updated, as that is the
only way to fix the problems. If we have to argue about the utility of some
questionable papers in the meantime, so be it. Better that than turn things
back to the old boy's network that didn't provide such a good basis to start
And as a quantitative type of guy, perhaps evolving to more and more
quantitative/testable aspects of nomenclature related to this discussion
would help as well - might even convince me to start doing some taxonomy.