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Re: Taxonomy and others

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Posted by Scott Thomson on February 26, 2002 at 09:56:55:

In Reply to: Taxonomy and others posted by Raymond Hoser on February 26, 2002 at 06:46:47:

Hi Ray,

thankyou for your words, I have been among those who have criticized your work in the past, as you well know. I am pleased that you have never taken those criticisms personally, as I have never done when people criticize my work. After all that is how science advances, by critical review of other peoples work.

In saying that it does mean alot to get kind words from someone you have criticized. However, there are a number of reasons I am leaving the field not just my frustrations at the state of herpetology in Australia.

My comments were broad generalisations and hence will seem a little unfair to some. There are most certainly members of the proffessional Herp community in Australia that work with both amatures and proffessionals equally and vice-versa. Those generalisations do not apply to everyone.

I can see that what you and Wells and Cann and others have done is applied names to species that had often been known to science for many years and never seem to have been described. But what I was trying to do is show the mistakes of the two "groups" of herpetologists and how this compounds into papers such as the Well's and Wellington (1985) papers. I am not accusing the current Wells (2002) paper of this, I have not seen that paper yet and cannot say much about it until I do.

But let me ask you this Ray, would your Death Adder paper have been accepted by Copeia? If so, why publish in Monitor? You should as an author aim for the highest quality journal you can reach. Any taxonomic paper is so important it should be able to be published in the highest Journal's, it must of course meet their criteria. This is what you should be aiming at. I am not knocking Monitor here, it is a superb journal but does not have the review practices set in place to deal with a taxonomic paper. If your papers could not reach the standards set by Copeia, were they ready to be published then?

A word to everyone else here. Taxonomic papers are some of the most important biological papers published, no matter how boring they can be. All other research on a species stems from that species original description and naming. As such they should be the most critically reviewed papers around too, personally I am very critical of taxonomic papers. I mean this in a good way not a bad way. That is I do not trash the work in the papers or the author but critically analyse what the author has done. Other taxonomists (such as Glen Shea, John Iverson and Mark Hutchinson) have similarly criticised my work. Any question on the validity of my work that can be aroused by the paper is my fault. It means I have either made an error or I have not explained myself properly. Criticism is how science advances and it should never be taken personally, I know several authors who take serious offense at their work being criticised. This is unfortunate because it makes it hard to properly analyse their work without making an enemy of them. This should not happen in science.

Cheers, Scott

: Scott, thanks for your comments.
: Many I agree with, some I don't and many others I agree with as generalizations with obvious exceptions.
: The only thing that really disturbed me in your previous post was your statement of quitting herpetology, taxonomy or similar.
: My advice (or desire) is don't.
: We need more people dealing with herp, not less and your contributions to the field will be long recognised by myself and many others.
: Changing the subject slightly, I had a conversation with Rob Sprackland recently which echoed one of your points (above).
: He thought it odd that here in OZ, we had herpetologists who'd identify new taxa in papers and then fail to name it.
: These "holes" are often what have been plugged by the likes of Wells/Wellington, Cann and myself. For what it's worth, may I say that in 50 years time no one will know who we were, but at least the taxa will carry proper names and not just be "sp".
: All the best

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