Recently I have learned about two self-published “journals” that are creating havoc for insect and reptile taxonomists. These are the two journals:
These two unrelated journals are basically self-published, vanity journals. They focus on taxonomy, “the scientific process by which natural groups are identified, described, named, and classified” (Kaiser et al., 2013, p. 8).
Moreover, “taxonomists, like courts, must deal with precedent” and “Because of the importance of precedent, taxonomy is uniquely vulnerable to crackpots” (Myrmecos Blog, December 13, 2007).
Further, “In herpetology, unscientific taxonomy under the guise of science, has been presented with increasing frequency in nonprofessional outlets since the year 2000” (Kaiser et al., 2013, p. 9).
The recently-published article, Best practices: In the 21st century, taxonomic decisions in herpetology are acceptable only when supported by a body of evidence and published via peer-review, provides a pitch-perfect description of the problem and offers a call to action for resolving the problems that these “taxonomic vandals” have been causing. The article is an excellent example of boundary work, which is the process of enforcing the demarcation between science and non-science.
It is the best herpetology article I have ever read.
The Australasian Journal of Herpetology is published by Raymond Hoser in Victoria, Australia. Regarding this journal, Kaiser et al. (2013), claim, “Although the AJH masquerades as a scientific journal, it is perhaps better described as a printed ‘blog’ because it lacks many of the hallmarks of formal scientific communication and includes much irrelevant information” (p. 17).
Regarding Calodema, one blogger reports “The journal Calodema has become the red herring in taxonomic publishing because of the very low standards of its publications (BIOSYSCONTEXT, March 5, 2011). Calodema calls itself a “new scientific natural history journal edited by Dr Trevor J. Hawkeswood of Sydney, Australia.”
Hawkeswood likes to name things after himself; Hawkeswoodidae is a family of spiders. His journal is really a component of his blog, which is called The Life and Works of Dr. Trevor J. Hawkeswood.
The solution is to limit taxonomy to authentically peer-reviewed articles.
BIOSYSCONTEXT (March 5, 2011). Makham, Hawkeswood and Calodema: What a strange set-up [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://biosyscontext.blogspot.com/2011/03/makham-hawkeswood-and-calodema-what.html
Kaiser, H., Crother, B. I., Kelly, C. M. R., Luiselli, L., O’Shea, M., Ota, H., et al. (2013). Best practices: In the 21st century, taxonomic decisions in herpetology are acceptable only when supported by a body of evidence and published via peer-review. Herpetological Review 44(1), 8–23.
Myrmecos Blog (December 13, 2007). The rogue taxonomist [Web log post]. Retrieved from: http://myrmecos.net/2007/12/13/the-rogue-taxonomist/