Nature Blog Network

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Best Species Etymology Evah!

In a new species description for an interstitial water mite Antonia G. Valdecasas tells it like it is. He "gets it" and has the cajones to put it out there in the published literature. I've said it once and I'll say it again, you can't judge every researcher using the same citation index, especially when it has been proven time and again to be worthless.

Etymology. Vagabundia comes from the Spanish word ‘vagabundo’ that means ‘wanderer’. It is a feminine substantive; sci refers to Science Citation Index. We pointed out some time ago (Valdecasas et al. 2000) that the popularity of the Science Citation Index (SCI) as a measure of ‘good’ science has been damaging to basic taxonomic work. Despite statements to the contrary that SCI is not adequate to evaluate taxonomic production (Krell 2000), it is used routinely to evaluate taxonomists and prioritize research grant proposals. As with everything in life, SCI had a beginning and will have an end. Before it becomes history, I dedicate this species to this sociological tool that has done more harm than good to taxonomic work and the basic study of biodiversity. Young biologists avoid the ‘taxonomic trap’ or becoming taxonomic specialists (Agnarsson & Kuntner 2007) due to the low citation rate of strictly discovery-oriented and interpretative taxonomic publications. Lack of recognition of the value of these publications, makes it difficult for authors to obtain grants or stable professional positions.

Valdecasas AG (2008) Confocal microscopy applied to water mite taxonomy with the description of a new genus of Axonopsinae (Acari, Parasitengona, Hydrachnidia) from Central America. Zootaxa 1820:41-48 (download paper here)

Hat tip to John Wilkins.


  1. "An
    anonymous referee revising a previous work already published (Valdecasas et al. 2005) commented on my
    scarcity of verbal interpretation of the photos and drawings used to describe a new species that ‘they were not
    self-explanatory at all’. I reckon herewith that he/she was correct."

    I like this guy...

  2. Wow, that was ballsy. I like especially how even the abstract includes a little jab at SCI and makes you want to read the rest of the paper. Kudos to Zootaxa for publishing this as is.

  3. Zootaxa has a can't be beat publishing policy. Anyone can publish their taxonomic works for free, but it remains behind a pay wall, though you retain the right to self-archive. For a mere $20/page you can publish it open access. Of course, many taxonomic works can go on for many pages.


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