Non-NU Email
To Doug Yanega's example:

even worse could be taxonomic terrorists who dupe the lay public with named species that are hopeless synonyms (or even nomina nuda), easily generating funds yet adding nothing to the scientific literature except taxonomic dross that must be cleaned up by future taxonomists. Given the plethora of "journals" being peddled in E-space, such "publications" arguably could meet the criterion of availability. Examples of such scams abound outside science--promising financial or spiritual gain based upon donations of cash--but the backlash to our entire community would lead to taxonomists being classified as snake-oil salesmen who exact financial resources from unsuspecting patrons in exchange for the quick Bitcoin or Dollar. We have seen such displays of scientific malpractice when the only payout is stroking the ego of the taxonomic malefactor. Add money to the mix, and all of us will get hurt.

James Liebherr
Department of Entomology
Comstock Hall 
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-2601

From: Entomological Collections Network Listserve <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Douglas Yanega <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, March 22, 2021 6:32 AM
To: [log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Opinion sought on public outreach for taxonomy
Non-NU Email

This is not a "cut and dry" issue. There are right ways and wrong ways one can go about giving a "goofy" name or a patronym, so the effects can range anywhere from extremely positive to extremely negative.

At least a few of you may recall that I gave a talk on this exact topic at the 2009 ECN meeting, and nothing much has changed since that time, aside from the ease with which news items can go viral.

Most of the time everything is all fine, but the need to avoid the problematic cases is the primary concern. Sometimes people ARE offended by attempts at honorifics, and people who propose names must be more careful about being certain they are not offending the "honoree"(s). Much of this is common sense.

I will reiterate, however, the worst-case scenario:

A "for profit" system of selling names is a very bad idea, at least until and unless there is a universally-agreed-upon system for the allocation of profits. We have already seen cases where a researcher at one institution borrows specimens from another institution, sells a name based on that material, and gives none of the profits back to the institution who owned the specimens. That sort of thing is, in the absence of explicit formal agreements, likely to create a significant problem somewhere down the road. Personally, I consider it better to avoid the problem altogether by NEVER attempting to generate financial profit in this way, because the necessary bureaucracy would INEVITABLY create more trouble than it is worth. Right now, we can still loan specimens without charging fees to the borrowers; right now we can still put loans in the mail and claim "Specimens for Scientific Study: No Commercial Value"; right now, there are still many countries where permitting requirements for collecting insects are minimal to nonexistent. I don't think we want those things to all change for the worse - and they WOULD, if naming became financially profitable. While it's intangible things like good PR, then great, but if we start putting dollar amounts on things, that's a very slippery slope.

So far, we've managed to steer clear of trouble, for the most part, but it does require us to be prudent and use forethought to avoid negative consequences.


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