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TAXONOMY IN XXI CENTURY: HOBBY OR BUSINESS?

Published: 11 November 2011 01:23Category: ContributePublished by: AnichtchenkoViews: 3814
Chapters of presentation on 15th European Carabidologists’ Meeting, 23-27 of August 2011

  TAXONOMY IN XXI CENTURY: HOBBY OR BUSINESS?
Alexander ANICHTCHENKO & Alexey SHAVRIN

    We would like to expose a little different point of view and another information for thinking about.
May be our presentation will be nonconformist, but we think is necessary to speak about some modern tendences in science and in carabidology in particular. Part of them is positive but unfortunatedly not all.
The main idea was to look development of taxonomy as a science in a gradient of -holders of knowledge (taxonomists) on a time piece from beginnings of 20 century till present time.
Normally at the base of any biological investigation, from revision to faunistic or ecological studies, the principal unit for manipulate or process data is a species. Wrongly determinated material leads to wrong result.
Whether there is a future of taxonomist?
Taxonomy is for beetles lovers or for "professionals"?
Whether commercialization of science will result to deadlock of taxonomy?
The questions partly philosophical and senseless, also doesn't find the concrete answers.
In present study we are made analysis of the number of taxonomic publications and new described taxa on examples of two large families of the beetles (Carabidae and Staphylinidae) for the period from 1900 to 2008, besides that we are registered all authors on the countries, years and their fruitfulness. The quality of papers was considered and whether is the author the professional (i.e. work as the museum employer or the research assistant in the scientific organization, institute, etc.), or he is engaged in taxonomy at amateur level (hobby), the number of coauthors was considered also.
Cooperation in preparation for publication of taxonomic paper - it is not bad. But whether always authorship mean inquisitive interest to studied object. Is are not ambitions? Practical benefit? Desire to receive new grant at any cost?
Activity of actual Carabidae specialists by countries:
Italy is on the first place. Number of taxonomists from USA, Germany and Japan is traditionally high. It is necessary to note, that the number of hobbists in Germany and Japan is high too. There are no hobbists in China. Also it is necessary not forget that the beetles fans are not bad, frequently they are very high quality experts in taxonomy.
If one hundred years ago or less, the entomology was in the hands of enthusiasts exclusively. Now the balance of people involved in entomology is move to busyness. The great part of so called specialist prefers follow any modern tendency (from ecology to scientology) if only receive money.

Writing of paper for the report to justify financing, and to receive new,
IT leads to occurrence of superficial, poor-quality publications, as a rule with several coauthors. For the sake of quantity it is endowed by quality of works

Occurrence of concept "Impaсt factor" and “Citation index” as deification of commercialization of a science.
IMPACT FACTOR – I can give good idea to increase citation factor, the perfect way is to publish absolutely absurdic article because everybody will citate it as stupidity, but the goal will be achieved – high citation and more money.
The most obvious shortcomings (defects) of impact factor as follows:
- number of citations, in fact, does not reflect the quality of research, however, as the number of publications;
- period of time are taken into account citation is too short, only two years (the classic articles are cited frequently even several decades after publication);
- Different results in various fields of science leads to a different frequency of publication, which influence on the impact factor. For example, medical journals often have largest impact factors than mathematical.
Using English as the universal in the writing of scientific papers
It is much easier to prepare a quality manuscript in native language, without the time and cost of translation work. The lack of knowledge of English leads to a simplification of the text.
The presence of literature on the native language promotes the emergence of young lovers of nature to scientific studies. For example see huge entomological literature of Germany, France, Italy and as result – many specialists. These traditions are continues today in some countries, that can only be welcomed. Moreover, nowadays any publication if you want you can translate from any language with the help of automatic translators.

“Principal aim of this publication VS “Principal aim is publication”
The accumulation of individual results, but not understanding and not generalization of them. The work is from the "Method" by Francis Bacon (father of empiricism), the main task of science is getting more and more empirical facts, the need for verification and interpretation of results, which nowadays is often not done.
As an example : the great part of last ten years publications about taxonomy of the genus Carabus.

It was noted that the “union” of carabidologists is more fragmented if compared with staphylinidologists. As an example, a presence of annual meeting of staphylinidologists in Europe (each year more and more participants from around the world) as well as existance of specialized mailing “staphlist”. From other hand, meetings of carabidologists are organize one time for three years.
The appearance of «Carabidae of the World» project (free online data base) showed reluctance of taxonomists to collaborate, despite the large number of visitors per day.
Only 2-3 enthusiast (from 300 registered and 100 included in list of Authors/Participants) are actively take part in the project.
A significant number of professionals simply refused to take part in the project, I suppose, not because of lack of time. Who wish to see a list of them?

The "aging-and-extinction" of taxonomists.
Becoming of expert-taxonomist is a long process, as well as ripening of a good taxonomic publication. The youth are moves with market condition, and old men try to be arranged with them. As we can see, the majority of taxonomists is around 50-60 years, and yuong people not arrive.

Another relatively recent problem is so-called «Vandalism in taxonomy» (see Jach, 2006) which essence consists that nonprofessional fans of insects, without having necessary preparation and qualification, can publish descriptions of new taxa, ignoring rules of International Code of the Zoological Nomenclature.
1.    Type material deposited in private collections
2.    Incorrect not reviewed papers
3.    Self-published works (print copies)
4.    The description of new inadequate taxa within commercial groups for the purpose of sale (for example: Carabus) to collectors
Occurrence of a considerable quantity of not reviewed and badly reviewed scientific magazines, and as result increase in number of poor-quality and erroneous publications.
Summarizing the aforesaid, it would be desirable to pay attention to a question of SOUL. The subject needs to be loved, in our case – beetles. To make business (money) on a subject it is possible, but it contradicts the primary goals of fundamental science, process of knowledge for the sake of knowledge.
We are try to develop the elementary units, "figures" in the living world which can be put or developed further in "higher mathematics" of the Animal Kingdom, and not contaminate science with absurd data and publications.
Now we are also notice that last of Mohicans, professional taxonomists, publish their remarkable works in which long-term experience, and also love to the object, not spoiled by momentary profit sees in respectable age.
We are wish them strong health and longevity!
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