A Peru-based open-access journal devoted to plant taxonomy is bulldozing its way into the field. The “Scientific Editor” and co-author of most of its published articles are one and the same. Taxonomy, a precise science, is being damaged by unvetted, unselective, and activist open-access journals.
The journal — Weberbauerella — takes its name from a legume native to South America. It’s the effort of two guys, Eduardo Antonio Molinari-Novoa — apparently a graduate student at Peru’s Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos — and Carlos Enrique Sánchez Ocharan, who has some connection to the Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina, also in Peru. Neither has a graduate degree, as far as I can tell.
The journal has so far published a single “volume” only, volume 1 (2016), and Molinari-Novoa, by my count, appears as a co-author on 15 of the volume’s 19 articles.
The journal has a “Scientific board,” which apparently functions as an editorial board. It has eight members, all from Peru. Carlos Enrique Sánchez Ocharan serves as the journal’s Editor-in-Chief, and our prolific author, Eduardo Antonio Molinari-Novoa, is the “Scientific editor.” These two are also two of the eight members of the Scientific Board.
An annotated bibliography entry in the Manual de Plantas de Costa Rica criticizes one of Eduardo Antonio Molinari-Novoa’s Weberbauerella articles. The entry says:
Molinari-Novoa, E. A. 2016. Two new lamiid families for the Americas. Weberbauerella 1(7): 1–4.
So now we have two new family names, both potentially applicable to genera occurring in Costa Rica, validated by an individual who evidently spends much of his time surfing the Internet to peruse the careful work of others in search of just this sort of opportunity, and who now has his own vanity-press, online journal to facilitate the whole nefarious enterprise. Enough said. Namaceae Molinari, segregated from Hydrophyllaceae, would include four genera, one of which (Wigandia) is represented in Costa Rica. Peltantheraceae Molinari accommodates the monospecific Peltanthera, widespread in the Neotropics (including Costa Rica), which has been bounced among Buddlejaceae, Loganiaceae, and Solanaceae, and could eventually find a home in Gesneriaceae (see under “The Angiosperm Phylogeny Group,” at the head of this column). Oddly, the subfamily names Namoideae Molinari and Peltantheroideae Molinari are also validated here (can a family have just one subfamily?). All the new taxa are minimally diagnosed.
Note that the entry indicates Molinari-Novoa has named a taxonomic family after himself, Peltantheraceae Molinari, and two sub-families also.
I wrote about predatory journals and taxonomy previously in 2013. In that blog post, I cited this article:
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.
I think this passage from the article is relevant here:
For taxonomists, this [easy publishing] trend is both a curse and a blessing. Even as the path to publication has been simplified and the time to publication shortened by the emergence of reputable, rigorously scientific, peer-reviewed, and well-edited electronic or rapid-print journals (e.g., ZooKeys, Zootaxa), publishing is no longer a controlled environment and there are outlets where nonscientific and misguided taxonomy is presented as fact. Differentiating between science and non-science in taxonomy is a challenge (p. 8-9).
Will taxonomy survive the transition to open access?