Message 2003-10-0006: Fwd: And now my quarterly nitpicking...

Wed, 15 Oct 2003 08:11:51 -0400

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Date: Wed, 15 Oct 2003 08:11:51 -0400
From: Philip Cantino <>
Subject: Fwd: And now my quarterly nitpicking...

David Marjanovic wrote:

>Instead of complaining about Article 4 in general, which is much stricter
>than the ICZN, I'll just ask why peer-review is obligatory. Currently, many
>journals are not peer-reviewed, so the Phylocode would greatly restrict the
>number of journals which could publish phylogenetic definitions.

Perhaps other members of the advisory group will respond as well, but
the reason I favor peer review as a requirement for publishing names
and definitions is that good phylogenetic definitions are difficult
to formulate.  It is easy to make mistakes in the wording of
definitions that the author and the systematic community regret later.

Phylogenetic nomenclature is not as "cut and dried" as rank-based
nomenclature.  Choosing the most appropriate name for a clade (if
there is a choice among preexisting names to convert), and writing a
phylogenetic definition that accurately captures the intent of the
author and minimizes content instability in the face of future
changes in phylogenetic hypotheses, require a thorough knowledge of
the systematics and nomenclatural history of the clade and experience
in formulating phylogenetic definitions.  Peer review assists the
author in this process and reduces the likelihood that poor
definitions and inappropriately selected names will be published--to
the detriment of everyone using phylogenetic nomenclature.  Peer
review also reduces the likelihood that an irresponsible author will
ignore the recommendations of the PhyloCode.  These recommendations
are not mandatory, but they were written into the code for good
reasons, and the community of PhyloCode users should strongly
encourage authors to follow them unless there is a very good reason
not to.  Peer review is a key mechanism for promoting responsible use
of the PhyloCode.  This will be particularly critical in the years
immediately following implementation of the PhyloCode, when quite a
few of the initial users will be relatively inexperienced, and there
will be many opponents of phylogenetic nomenclature eager to demonstrate
that this new system is a disaster.  Poor definitions written by
inexperienced or irresponsible authors will provide our opponents
with ammunition.

I am surprised to read that "many journals are not peer-reviewed."
It is my impression that most reputable journals are peer-reviewed,
and that the only difficulty we will have in finding outlets for
phylogenetic definition is opposition on the part of the editors
of some of these journals.  Also, the International Society
for Phylogenetic Nomenclature (which will be inaugurated in Paris
next summer) may want to create a journal dedicated to publishing
names and definitions if PhyloCode users are having trouble finding
peer-reviewed outlets for their papers.


Philip D. Cantino
Professor and Associate Chair
Department of Environmental and Plant Biology
Ohio University
Athens, OH 45701-2979

Phone: (740) 593-1128; 593-1126
Fax: (740) 593-1130


Feedback to <> is welcome!