The value of an editorial board

Carter Oil Company
Billings, Montana

In the final issue of “The Micropaleontologist” (vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 26-27, 1954), Hofker expresses the view that young graduate students should be permitted to publish foraminiferal papers only in association with an experienced student. Apart from the obvious difficulty of deciding who should arbitrate in such cases, in my opinion it is impossible to generalize in such a sweeping manner. I can cite first papers of the highest order by youthful authors, and also shoddy papers by senior authors.

Hofker rightly cites Cushman as close to the ideal of a senior collaborator. The volume of letters presented to Dr. Cushman on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of his laboratory gave eloquent proof of this. Nevertheless, viewed objectively, the papers of Cushman and his many collaborators almost all contain clear errors of specific and generic identification. I myself am sometimes embarrassed by such errors in earlier collaborative papers. For example, Tertiary species were referred to Globigerina digitata, Globigerinoides conglobatus, etc., although they were distinctly different from the types. These are errors so obvious that many young graduate students would manage to avoid them. Hofker is himself an experienced student, qualified by his own standards to act as senior collaborator in publishing younger students’ theses; yet his individualistic approach to classification and his blatant disregard of the Rules of Nomenclature have aroused sharp controversy, and would render his aegis suspect in the eyes of some.

Many young students who want to pursue the study of foraminifera are forced by economic pressure to enter the foreign service of oil companies. Here they find themselves in the quandary of meeting new, significant, unpublished microfaunas but of having limited library facilities. It is to our general interest that they should publish the results of their studies, yet under the circumstances their synonymies and comparisons must be incomplete. Collaboration with a senior worker is difficult because most professors, museum curators and the like have their own full curricula of research work. In this connection, one wonders if the weaknesses in Cushman’s collaborative papers were mainly due to his acceptance of more projects than could reasonably be handled in one laboratory.

It is clearly desirable that published papers should be as free as possible from objective errors, simple misidentifications, erection of new names for existing species, misuse of the codes of nomenclature and type-designation, and so on. It seems to me that control should rest with the editors of the journals concerned with foraminifera, and the blue pencil should be applied equally firmly to every manuscript, whether its author be tyro or professor emeritus. The plan announced by the editors of “Micropaleontology,” to establish an editorial board composed of specialists in the various fields of micropaleontology, appeals greatly to me and should ensure high standards in the papers published by this journal. I believe that the control exercised by such a board is the most practical way of keeping objective errors to a minimum. Furthermore, an editorial board provides some control of subjective treatment. One cannot use the term “subjective errors,” but there are certain generally accepted standards of style, conciseness, illustration, etiquette, and so on. Adherence to these standards would not be guaranteed merely by the signature of an experienced worker on each manuscript published.