Here’s a find that will disturb any self-respecting taxonomist:


This book is not a book. It’s an unpublished student thesis from the University of Texas at El Paso.

Apparently Bibliogov, a publishing company that scrapes state websites and repackages content to sell to unsuspecting buyers, has picked up the deposited thesis and is printing it on demand. The research was not completed to the point of submission to a peer-reviewed journal, and neither the student nor her adviser intended to publish the work. At least, not in the current form. The thesis was merely filed as a requirement for the student to graduate.

This sort of robo-publishing would not normally be a problem but for the legalistic nature of how taxonomic names are regulated. Publishing is a formal act that makes taxonomic names available. Third party printing potentially legitimizes taxonomic proposals never intended for release. Not good. Taxonomy already has enough chaos without robots jumping the gun.

Should the practice of scraping and publishing theses become common, either the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature will have to adopt a set of rules suppressing involuntary publication, or students of taxonomy should be uniquely exempt from filing dissertations with unpublished results.

(via James Trager)

[update: to clarify, these robo-books don’t automatically make a name available under ICZN rules. A couple other conditions about the timing and deposition of the content must be met that may or may not be the case.]