Publication practice in Taxonomy: Global inequalities and potential bias against negative results

Rodrigo Brincalepe Salvador* (Corresponding author), Daniel Caracanhas Cavallari, Douglas Rands, Barbara Mizumo Tomotani

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


There is broad recognition by practicing taxonomists that the field is going through a crisis, which has been dubbed the “taxonomic impediment”. There are many aspects involved in said crisis, but publication practices in taxonomy are often neglected or relegated to the backseat. We provide an initial foray into this topic via a worldwide survey with taxonomists, spanning all botanical and zoological groups, and career stages. Demographically, most of the respondents identified themselves as males (70%), working in Europe or North America (68%), in universities (50%) or museums (27%). Over half of the respondents are established/late-career researchers (only about 25% of full professors were female), with a low number of early-career researchers and graduate students (i.e., taxonomists in training). Nearly 61% of the men acquired their highest title at least eleven years ago, while only 41% of the women did so. Nearly 92% of the respondents have published new species descriptions, while around 60% and 26% have synonymized, respectively, species-level or subspecies-level taxa. In general, respondents perceive the act of describing new species to be easier than synonymizing species (p = 0.05). Established/late-career researchers and male researchers, particularly in Oceania and North America, found it easier to publish nomenclatural acts such as new species descriptions, while early-career researchers had their acts contested more often. Our results reaffirm the low academic recognition of the field, the lack of funding for research and publishing charges especially in the Global South, and the difficulty in finding specialized outlets (and the low impact factor of those journals) as persistent issues in taxonomy. Other significant problems raised by respondents include ethical issues in the peer-review process, a bias against newcomers in the field coming either from established researchers or committees, and taxonomic vandalism.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0269246
Pages (from-to)e0269246
JournalPLoS One
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jun 2022


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