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A new AOU? (1 Viewer)

fugl

Well-known member
The vote was “unanimous”, I notice, so the motive for a merger must be a powerful one. A matter of economics, I suppose?
 

Richard Klim

-------------------------
The author of the blog speculates a merger of the NACC and SACC. Obviously that is going to have major consequences to taxonomy, and I can't help but think it might slow down the implementation of changes.
NACC and SACC are already separate committees of the AOU. So I don't see why merging with other societies necessarily suggests that the two committees should merge. But it would certainly resolve the increasing number of conflicts in taxonomy, particularly at generic level...
 

AlexC

Aves en Los Ángeles y CT
Opus Editor
Supporter
They're forming an alliance against the IOCxis of evil! 8-P
 

mb1848

Well-known member
"They're forming an alliance against the IOCxis of evil" Which side should Frank Gill support? Shot by both sides indeed. i always support the rebel alliance. Does anyone else think "Society for ornithology" sounds orwellian? Should not it mention Amurica or Western hemisphere or new world or something geographic??
 
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chris butterworth

aka The Person Named Above
Getting rid of 'The Auk' sounds a bit drastic - I suppose it's all down to politics. As an aside the possible merging of NACC and SACC ( speculated by Morgan ) gave me a bit of a chuckle, but I'm known for having a rather basic sense of humour.

Chris
 

MJB

Well-known member
They're forming an alliance against the IOCxis of evil! 8-P

Alex,
Maybe not, given that Michele Bachmann has just won the key Republican (non-binding) Iowa straw poll - her views on Darwinism might just make AOU obsolete!:-Oo:D
MJB
 

Richard Klim

-------------------------
Progress report: May 2016

Beissinger, Lanyon, Pruett-Jones, Martin, Raphael, Sullivan & Wolf 2016. Report of the joint AOU-COS Merger Working Group. [pdf]
 

thomasdonegan

Former amateur ornithologist
It is quite surprising that the organisations are not using this opportunity to reform the terms of reference of AOU taxonomic committees. This may be among the most serious of the various governance issues facing the organisation, and one which has potential external impacts beyond the AOU itself. A few provisions restricting members from voting through proposals based on their own research, a requirement to comply with the ICZN code and provisions addressing other conflicts of interest would be a good start. Doing so may reduce the likelihood of occurrence of the regularly "interesting" taxonomic decisions they make and reduce perceptions of bias that are sometimes commented upon in this forum.
 
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Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
"lifts head out of foxhole"

Err...IIRC most of those complaints on the forum stem solely from you? How significant an issue is this for other members of the AOU?

"ducks back down"
 

thomasdonegan

Former amateur ornithologist
Not wishing to reopen old wounds and topics, but quite a number of people commented on the voting patterns of a certain Prof. FG Stiles in this proposal:
http://www.museum.lsu.edu/~Remsen/SACCprop479.html

For example, here, see comments of Richard Klim #8, Global Birder #14:
http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=204478
(It looks really bad for an "editor" (and more?) of a paper to vote through his side of a big controversy this way.)

I think Shakespeare rather than Magna Carta first came up with the idea that "one should not be a judge in one's own cause", a concept lost on AOU but not on most of the rest of the world. This applies to all proposals where a committee member is an author of the proposal or the scientific paper underlying it. Would it not be a good idea for AOU to sort this out? I could just grumble here each time they do something strange; this is a suggestion for improvement!
 

Kratter

Well-known member
For most proposals, the writer is often not connected to the research that prompted the proposal. For example, I wrote two proposals this year, one on storm-petrels and one on swamphens. I have not written about either subject otherwise and have no stake on the outcome. For some proposals, the writer recommends a no vote. And for almost all proposals , the work is already published and the writer's stake in the Committee outcome is rather small. For academics (including most members of the SACC and NACC), it is much more important for job security, raises, tenure and such to get papers published. The administrators and colleagues that decide our fates usually have little or no idea what these Committees even do and could not care less whether one of our proposals passes through the Committee.

Anyway, I think the Committee works best when it makes it informed decisions. If the proposal is written by someone who is involved in the research, then they are likely the most informed and I value their opinion. As it takes a super-majority for proposals to pass, the vanity of one Committee members is not going to outweigh the sanity of the rest of the Committee. For all these reasons, I see no reason to bar votes from those involved in the research or proposal writing.

Since you like drawing analogies, in the US congress, a bill sponsor (often the writer) may still vote on their proposal. Not sure what they do in the UK parliament.


Andy
 

thomasdonegan

Former amateur ornithologist
For most proposals, the writer is often not connected to the research that prompted the proposal. For example, I wrote two proposals this year, one on storm-petrels and one on swamphens. I have not written about either subject otherwise and have no stake on the outcome. For some proposals, the writer recommends a no vote. And for almost all proposals , the work is already published and the writer's stake in the Committee outcome is rather small.

Sure; with committees generally in the corporate world, those with an interest in the outcome either declare it or recuse themselves, or both. Where someone brings a proposal to the committee in these situations you describe,you are doing the world a favour with no interest that is of concern, but that is not always the case.

For academics (including most members of the SACC and NACC), it is much more important for job security, raises, tenure and such to get papers published. The administrators and colleagues that decide our fates usually have little or no idea what these Committees even do and could not care less whether one of our proposals passes through the Committee.

Not always. The Grallaria case was quite special, peculiar and hopefully won't happen again on lots of levels and ways. But it is not a lone example as regards the committee behaviour point. The Brazilian tapaculo proposal at AOU is another one where it is difficult for a bystander (like me, with no particular interest in the outcome) to work out how they ended up taking their decision. It seems to defy the ICZN Code and also the committee's own practices on status quo treatments having precedence. Until you consider who the authors of one side of the arguments are, that is... (The AOU/LSU view on Brazilian tapaculos may actually prevail over time if molecular data is forthcoming, but you can't get there under the ICZN Code, as concluded by Nemesio et al in a Zootaxa paper, because the type locality has to stand as the one specified in the original description.

https://www.researchgate.net/public..._identity_of_a_long_overlooked_Brazilian_bird)

Since you like drawing analogies, in the US congress, a bill sponsor (often the writer) may still vote on their proposal. Not sure what they do in the UK parliament.

UK house of parliament has 650+ members, not 10.

You can draw analogies here with courts, parliaments or corporate structures, but almost all of them have rules on conflicts of interest.
 
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Jim M.

Choose Civility
With every committee or board of directors I've served on, the member or director who makes a motion is allowed to vote on it. The only exception I recall is when an individual has a personal financial interest in the outcome.
 

njlarsen

Gallery Moderator
Opus Editor
Supporter
Barbados
With every committee or board of directors I've served on, the member or director who makes a motion is allowed to vote on it. The only exception I recall is when an individual has a personal financial interest in the outcome.

I sit on a committee that votes on exam questions. I am barred from voting on questions I wrote.

Niels
 

Jim M.

Choose Civility
I sit on a committee that votes on exam questions. I am barred from voting on questions I wrote.

Niels

Seems a pointless restriction, and not one you will find in general use in boards or committees that follow rules for presentation of motions and the like. Why should your judgment be discounted simply because you took the time to author a proposal?
 

DLane

Well-known member
The Grallaria case was quite special, peculiar and hopefully won't happen again on lots of levels and ways.

Not to reopen old wounds, as you say, but certainly Stiles' behavior pales in comparison to the Condor editor's report (see Neo-orn post) that an unnamed higher-up from ProAves was a Condor reviewer of the Caranton and Certuche description and was the cause of that paper's rejection and subsequent delay to publish while the competing ProAves description was written and published in-house? Surely, that is a flagrant conflict of interest that supersedes any that Stiles may have had!
 

thomasdonegan

Former amateur ornithologist
With every committee or board of directors I've served on, the member or director who makes a motion is allowed to vote on it. The only exception I recall is when an individual has a personal financial interest in the outcome.

The ones I've been on or seen usually refer to any conflict, including non-monetary interests.

Seems a pointless restriction, and not one you will find in general use in boards or committees that follow rules for presentation of motions and the like. Why should your judgment be discounted simply because you took the time to author a proposal?

The reason for most organisations having rules on conflicts is so that, if there is some perceived bad or strange outcome, it can be said that it was an honest outcome. Otherwise, bad or strange outcomes start looking a lot like biased or corrupt ones. AOU don't have rules on conflicts, ICZN don't either. I think it would be better if they did. Maybe a judicial (no conflicts at all, cannot participate if any interest) or more corporate (disclosure and consider whether recusal from voting is appropriate) standard is best, who knows, but having nothing looks odd and does not enhance the reputation of AOU.

With reference to Dan's message, I am not sure that pointing the finger at someone else is relevant to this discussion. ProAves' version of the Condor review process differed from the "ornithologists' outrage" camp:
http://iczn.org/node/40380 and search for "Patten".
Moreover, the reviewer pointing to the conflict or issue then recusing themselves from substantive review sounds like the right thing to do?
 
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