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Re: Publication Validity and Quality

Eghads! Thanks for this info. If, as you write, W&W work was flawed in "much less fulfilling all requirements of ICZN arcana.", then how could the ICZN rule in their favor?


Choo, Brian wrote:
In a nutshell... no.

Hoser's *Broghammerus* for example is here to stay as the genus of the 
Reticulated python if recent work on python phylogeny is accepted.

(Rawlings, L.H., Rabosky, D.L., Donnellan, S.C. & Hutchinson, M.N. (2008) 
Python phylogenetics: inference from morphology and mitochondrial DNA. Biological 
Journal of the Linnean Society 93: 603-629)

Don't forget that Hoser's sins pale in comparison to Wells & Wellington 
1984/1985 - 3 (effectively) self-published, non-peer reviewed papers that shoddily 
described/resurrected hundreds of new species/genera of Australian/New Zealand 
herps .

None of their nomenclatural declarations were accompanied by much in any detailed 
diagnoses, much less fulfilling all requirements of ICZN arcana. Many names like 
*Vaderscincus* (Darth Vader skink) and *Eroticoscincus* (Sexy skink) were clearly 
of a mischevous nature. In some cases Wells & Wellington had not even seen the 
type specimens or had scooped other authors who were in the process of describing 
the taxa concerned.

In the following years, a massive campaign was mounted by hundreds of Australian 
scientists in an attempt to convince the ICZN to suppress the publications, 
rendering all their taxonomic proposals null and void. Ultimately, ICZN ruled in 
W&W's favour.

(Williams, D., Wüster, W. and Fry, B.G. (2006) 'The good, the bad and the ugly: 
Australian snake taxonomists and a history of the taxonomy of Australia's venomous 
snakes.' Toxicon, 47: 919-930)

Since then, many of W&W's names have found general acceptance:eg. Antaresia, Eroticoscincus, 
Rankinia, various subspecies of the Carpet Python (mcdowelli, cheynei, metcalfei etc - described 
as new spp. by W&W). In at least one case, a legitimate researcher has had his proposed (and 
properly described) nomen sunk into a W&W taxon at the behest of an ICZN ruling (Varanus 
teriae Sprackland 1991 => V. keithhornei W&W 1985).

Fun times!

From: owner-DINOSAUR@usc.edu [owner-DINOSAUR@usc.edu] On Behalf Of Dan Chure 
Sent: Monday, 14 June 2010 4:26 AM
To: jharris@dixie.edu
Cc: dinosaur@usc.edu
Subject: Re: Publication Validity and Quality

Does anyone know if  the ICZN ever ruled on the Hoser's snake taxonomic
work?  There may be some relevance here.


Harris, Jerald wrote:
I think the debates raging here, SV-POW, and elsewhere, stimulated 
unintentionally as they were by Rob Gay's booklet, are good, healthy, and 
necessary.  But in order for there to ever be some resolution to this set of 
problems, perhaps it's time that we started discussion about _solutions_, 
rather than circling around the issues.  I know that PhyloCode has some verbage 
discussing the requirement for peer-review, and that's a start, but here's some 
other issues:

* who should (or will) define what is and is not a "publication" for the purposes of 
taxonomic validity?  The ICZN?  The PhyloCode?  A third, entirely separate committee?  The ICZN, as 
others have noted, is either wholly intractable and stolid, or else it moves in a tectonic time 
frame and is therefore useless in light of the rapid pace of technological change. I don't know 
nearly enough about the PhyloCode to comment on its ability, but have to wonder whether or not the 
idea of a publication is too different from its primary mandate to need to fall under its purview.  
A third organization -- the International Commission on Publication Validation or somesuch...?  Who 
would be on that commission -- taxonomists, obviously, but should publishers have representation, 
too?  Who would choose these people?  Of course, even if such a body existed and had a set of 
definition, how would it be enforced?  Or labeled (e.g., a "stamp of approval")?

*  what criteria should be used to define "publication"?  Most seem to believe 
that peer review should be a primary consideration, and I actually agree...but as many 
have noted, it's hardly a universal panacea -- there have been perfectly awful papers 
published that have been through obviously lapse peer review, down even to terrible 
grammar, let alone facts.  It's obviously impractical that all peer reviews should have 
to go through some sort of singular committee that assesses whether or not the peer 
reviews have been adequate -- actually, that's what individual editors (or editorial 
boards) for individual publications are _supposed_ to do, so it all comes down to 
individual variation between editors...and some are clearly more lapse (or less able, I 
hate to think) in doing their duties...perhaps for perfectly valid reasons (they have to 
teach, write grant proposals, write papers of their own, supervise students, etc.), or 
perhaps from sheer laziness (or laissez-faire attitude about acceptability).  Would 
reviews be any better if, for example, reviewers were paid to review?  If there were 
full-time reviewers without other duties?  Should publishers themselves, then, have a say 
about what they will or won't accept?  Are they even educated enough on the subject to do 
so?  I'm not pretending to have any answers here -- I've spent a fair amount of time 
thinking about this subject and haven't come up with any answers...personally, I try and 
apply a very high standard of rigor when I review papers, but I'm far from perfect and 
certainly miss things, especially on subjects where my own knowledge is, um, less than 
maximal.  So when I see crap get published, I get a bit irked with the authors _and_ the 
reviewers, and wonder how the heck the paper passed muster -- obviously, _my_ idea of 
muster, but clearly not a _universal_ concept of muster!

     Food for thought...

Jerry D. Harris
Director of Paleontology
Dixie State College
Science Building
225 South 700 East
St. George, UT  84770   USA
Phone: (435) 652-7758
Fax: (435) 656-4022
E-mail: jharris@dixie.edu
 and     dinogami@gmail.com

"I have noticed even people who
claim everything is predestined, and
that we can do nothing to change it,
look before they cross the road."

                   -- Stephen Hawking

"Prediction is very difficult,
especially of the future."

                   -- Niels Bohr

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