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Open Access Highly Accessed Debate

The taxonomist - an endangered race. A practical proposal for its survival

Heike Wägele1*, Annette Klussmann-Kolb2, Michael Kuhlmann3, Gerhard Haszprunar4, David Lindberg5, André Koch1 and J Wolfgang Wägele1

Author Affiliations

1 Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig, Adenauerallee 160, 53113 Bonn, Germany

2 Institute for Ecology, Evolution and Diversity, Goethe-University, Siesmayerstrasse 70, 60054 Frankfurt am Main, Germany

3 Department of Entomology, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK

4 Zoologische Staatssammlung München, Münchhausenstraße 21, 81247 München, Germany

5 Department of Integrative Biology and Museum of Paleontology, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-4780, USA

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Frontiers in Zoology 2011, 8:25  doi:10.1186/1742-9994-8-25

Published: 26 October 2011

Abstract

Background

Taxonomy or biological systematics is the basic scientific discipline of biology, postulating hypotheses of identity and relationships, on which all other natural sciences dealing with organisms relies. However, the scientific contributions of taxonomists have been largely neglected when using species names in scientific publications by not citing the authority on which they are based.

Discussion

Consequences of this neglect is reduced recognition of the importance of taxonomy, which in turn results in diminished funding, lower interest from journals in publishing taxonomic research, and a reduced number of young scientists entering the field. This has lead to the so-called taxonomic impediment at a time when biodiversity studies are of critical importance.

Here we emphasize a practical and obvious solution to this dilemma. We propose that whenever a species name is used, the author(s) of the species hypothesis be included and the original literature source cited, including taxonomic revisions and identification literature - nothing more than what is done for every other hypothesis or assumption included in a scientific publication. In addition, we postulate that journals primarily publishing taxonomic studies should be indexed in ISISM.

Summary

The proposal outlined above would make visible the true contribution of taxonomists within the scientific community, and would provide a more accurate assessment for funding agencies impact and importance of taxonomy, and help in the recruitment of young scientists into the field, thus helping to alleviate the taxonomic impediment. In addition, it would also make much of the biological literature more robust by reducing or alleviating taxonomic uncertainty.

Keywords:
Taxonomy crisis; taxonomic impediment; impact factor; original species description; citation index; systematics