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Papers, etc

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Posted by Raymond Hoser on February 26, 2002 at 17:52:23:

In Reply to: Re: Taxonomy and others posted by Scott Thomson on February 26, 2002 at 09:56:55:

Thanks for the above post.
Re publication of original descriptions.
I disagree with your views for several reasons, too long to go thru here, but some of which are addressed in both the Wells and Wellington reply to Aplin's piece in monitor and the section of Smuggled-2 which deals with the Dan Lunney edited publication "Herpetology in Australia", which while being allegedly peer reviewed, contained some of the most inexcusable garbage I have ever seen.
Based on these and other aspects, where the description is published is not of huge importance, ... particularly in this age of electronic transmissions, copies and the like.
So long as the description is fine, it'll hold up to scrutiny wherever it is published. ... and I do not have any deep faith in allegedly peer reviewed publications versus those that are not.
(My own papers are sent out for review by myself as a matter of course, which while not neccessarily making them error free, is an obvious step this way).
In terms of location of publication, it has long been argued that some of the descriptions published in the "in house" publications such as "Rec of the XXX museum", while ostensibly being peer reviewed, are often submitted to escape this very process.
Thus the arguments against my choosing Monitor and similar publications as my original point of description, while prima facie valid, do not (to me anyway), carry too much weight in the final analysis.
Returning to the merits of publications such as Copeia, etc, we then have other factors working against either it or your arguments.
MOST descriptions of taxa are not published in the three or four best known herp journals.
These journals such as Copiea, still only have a subscription base of (at best) a few thousand, which like I said pales into insignificance, when compared with the later dissemination of the same discrpitions and names via reprints, photocopies and popular publications such as the books by myself, Cogger, etc , the latter of which have up until recent times, been by far the best means to make known new taxa and new names.
Furthermore, in this age of internet, it has been said by others that my pioneering move to put my taxonomy papers online (both as html and pdf (like the originals)) -immediately following publication has made my descriptions the most widely disseminated in history, ultimately making my publication site/s the best so far.
Finally, there was a quad of very important reasons why I chose Monitor to publish my first description paper/s.
1/ As editor I had complete control of the publishing process, so in the end carried the can in the event of mistakes and the like, and perhaps more importantly (but tied in with the above)
2/ The format of the journal allowed me to publish excellent colour photos of types and new taxa in life, which simply doesn't occur in most other journals, including the prominent herp ones.
The fact is that one or more excellent colour photos of the species in question may well negate any perceived deficiencies in the written descriptions and in any event must be seen to greatly enhance the original descriptions.
(a picture says a thousand words?).
By way of example, in Monitor 10(1), the cover photo of the hitherto unknown elapid Pailsus pailsei in life, was seen by many and on it's own was used by many herpetologists to become aware of this intersting new taxa. Add to this the photos inside the journal and the format of the description even allowed the non-scientific types to get a grip on this new taxa.
You (Scott) even made the point of stating how dull and boring some taxonomy papers are to read. This is true, however my (progressive?) step of including colour pics of the live specimen/s, in large part gets the message across to the non-readers as well.
Now while there are some who may say that this group of readers (the non-academic) don't count, I think you and I disagree with that proposition.
That we are correct is evidenced (by way of example) that so-called amateurs have since (I understand) caught at least 8 more Pailsus pailsei and in the first instance brought to the attention of science another taxa (Pailsus rossignollii), while during the same period, all the professionals have managed is to locate another 2 or 3 animimals (dead) in their collections.
Now this is not an attack on the "professionals" as there are many factors involved here, not least being that "professionals" have other time constraints and research priorities, but it all shows how the original description, which also targetted unpaid amateurs harnessed this "resource" to further the scientific body of knowledge, which we all end up sharing.
3/ Finally, the decision to publish in Monitor was deliberate in that knowing that the descriptions would be widely sought and cited, the popularity and prestige of the journal would be enhanced - which incidentally is the same reason that the former editor Brian Barnett chose to publish Cann's descriptions of tortoises before my own editorship.
My term of editor was always to be for one year only (extended by about 3 months to get in another issue), so the above move was not so much to help myself as editor, but rather the next incumbent and the society in general, to which I have obvious loyalty.
4/ Finally the lead time of publication was an issue of some (but not all critical) note. Some of these other journals have such long lead times that one may go thru the process of looking at species and writing up a description, only to be pipped at the post by someone else. This did in fact happen to me in the case of my Python paper published in Ophidia Review, submitted for publication in 1998.
The publication was for various reasons delayed and after my own paper had ben written, Dave Barker and others decided to look at some of the taxa I had already named. To save a dispute, I pulled three new names and to an extent, work had been unneccessarily duplicated (although this latter point can always be disputed).
Both the Barker (et. al.) paper (under the name Harvey et. al.) and my own python taxonomy paper came out in print in 2000.
I think the ICZN rules actually recommends (as opposed to rules) speedy publication of descriptions of new taxa.
Finally (and not related to my papers), I recall seeing proofsof Cann's new book before it came out and asked him why he wasn't naming many of the variants of the tortoises effectively described in his book.
He never gave me a reason I felt compelling in this regard, and in many ways I am not surprised that others have moved in to fill the void so to speak.
Also see my post above re E. irwini - thanks
Gotta go and feed my new adder.

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