A plea for comments on ICZN Case 3769

The latest issue of the Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature contains Case 3769 (Bílý et al. 2018), in which my coauthors and I ask the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature to declare the privately published pamphlet “Procrustomachia” as an unavailable work for nomenclatural purposes. This pamphlet, first issued in 2016, is authored, edited, and produced (I hesitate to use the word “published”) by a single individual—Roman B. Hołyński, who has used the pamphlet as a vehicle for describing new taxa of jewel beetles (family Buprestidae, order Coleoptera). Each issue of the pamphlet is presented in the form of a PDF file under the guise of the “Occasional Papers of the Uncensored Scientists Group” and distributed electronically by Hołyński himself via e-mail and uploaded to his personal page on the social network site ResearchGate. By the time our case went to press, Hołyński had described one new genus, eight new subgenera, 17 new species, and one new subspecies of jewel beetle—three additional new subgenera and five new species have been proposed since.

We are asking the Commission to declare the pamphlet as an unavailable work because it does not satisfy the requirements for publication of scientific names in zoology according to provisions in the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN 1999) and its amendments (ICZN 2012), thus making the names published within them unavailable for nomenclatural purposes. The pamphlets do not qualify as valid electronic publications because 1) they are not deposited in a recognized archive and 2) the new names within them are not registered at ZooBank prior to electronic distribution. Both of these conditions must be met in order to qualify as valid electronically-issued works. As a result, the validity of the works can only be based on printed copies. Here also the pamphlet does not satisfy the ICZN requirement of “numerous identical and durable copies” for works issued as printed copies. No information is given in any of the volumes regarding where printed copies may be obtained, and our online searches have revealed only three institutions where printed issues have been deposited—the Polish National Library being the only one of the three that lists a complete set of issues. This gives grounds to assume that the initial print run is far too small to be considered a valid printed work for nomenclatural purposes.

There is a larger issue at stake than just the validity of “Procrustomachia” and the availability of the names proposed within it. Privately-produced pamphlets that ignore safeguards against modification and ensuring long-term availability to the scientific community represent a threat to the stability of taxonomic nomenclature. Such safeguards and the commonly accepted rules for publishing new names in zoology are likely to be ignored by irresponsible, very often commercial collectors, ambitious individuals, or poorly qualified amateurs. The ICZN needs a tougher approach regarding publication criteria for new names, for example, to be bound to peer-reviewed professional journals (both printed and electronic, but printed preferably) with international editorial boards including highly qualified taxonomists. If such approach is not implemented soon, we could be facing an avalanche of PC-printed “home-made” new names. A more detailed background and discussion of this issue was presented by Bílý & Volkovitsh (2017).

Comments on this case are invited for publication (subject to editing) in the Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature. Send comments to the Secretariat, ICZN, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, 2 Conservatory Drive, Singapore 117377, Republic of Singapore (e-mail: iczn@nus.edu.sg).

REFERENCES:

Bílý, S. & M. G. Volkovitsh. 2017. New unavailable names in Buprestidae (Coleoptera) and a short comment on the electronic publication of new names. Zootaxa 4243(2):371–372 [abstract].

Bílý, S., M. G. Volkovitsh & T. C. MacRae. 2018. Case 3769 – Proposed use of the plenary power to declare the pamphlet “Procrustomachia” as an unavailable work. Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature 75(31 December 2018):220–224. ISSN 2057-0570 (online) [pdf].

ICZN (International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature). 1999. International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, 4th Edition. International Trust for Zoological Nomenclature, London, xxix + 306 pp. [online version].

ICZN (International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature). 2012. Amendment of Articles 8, 9, 10, 21 and 78 of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature to expand and refine methods of publication. Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature 69:161–169 [full text].

© Ted C. MacRae 2019

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About Ted C. MacRae

Ted C. MacRae is a research entomologist by vocation and beetle taxonomist by avocation. Areas of expertise in the latter include worldwide jewel beetles (Buprestidae) and North American longhorned beetles (Cerambycidae). More recent work has focused on North American tiger beetles (Cicindelidae) and their distribution, ecology, and conservation.
This entry was posted in Buprestidae, Coleoptera and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A plea for comments on ICZN Case 3769

  1. Gaz says:

    Ted, as much as I wish I had read Zoology at University I chose to read medicine (I can’t grow a beard like the famous TV zoologists I admired). That said, as a Microbiologist in a fast-changing environment with changes in nomenclature of microorganisms seeming to occur too frequently for my liking (as a result of genomic and proteomic advances), I understand what you’re describing and wish you all the very best in your endeavours to ensure the stability and security of taxonomic nomenclature.

    • Thanks Gaz. Whether this application succeeds or fails hinges on our “multiple identical copies” argument. Hołyński failed to take necessary precautions to ensure his pamphlet met the requirements for either a printed or electronic work; however, he or any other unethical author could sidestep this technicality in the future by making sure they produce and distribute at least 25 (or 100, etc.) printed copies prior to electronic distribution. In such case, there would be nothing we could do about it except boycott Hołyński’s work outright (which also creates instability due to “double nomenclature”). This brings us to the doorstep of the much larger issue of “taxonomic vandalism” – the situation with Raymond Hoser probably being the best-known example. I don’t see much hope that the ICZN will ever adopt standards – a so-called “Code of Ethics” if you will – as criteria for determining nomenclatural availability, thus, the only real solution (as I see it) would be to implement name registration combined with a list of authorized journals in which new names may be published. Only then would recalcitrant, self-publishing authors – stripped of the authority to erect new names in their own basement publishing houses – either stop publishing or consent to subjecting their papers to conventional peer review in respected, authorized journals.

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