When mycologists describe new species, not all relevant information is provided (clearly enough)
Journal article, 2020
Taxonomic mycology struggles with what seems to be a perpetual shortage of resources. Logically, fungal taxonomists should therefore leverage every opportunity to highlight and visualize the importance of taxonomic work, the usefulness of taxonomic data far beyond taxonomy, and the integrative and collaborative nature of modern taxonomy at large. Is mycology really doing that, though? In this study, we went through ten years' worth (2009-2018) of species descriptions of extant fungal taxa - 1,097 studies describing at most ten new species - in five major mycological journals plus one plant journal. We estimated the frequency at which a range of key words, illustrations, and concepts related to ecology, geography, taxonomy, molecular data, and data availability were provided with the descriptions. We also considered a range of science-demographical aspects such as gender bias and the rejuvenation of taxonomy and taxonomists as well as public availability of the results. Our results show that the target audience of fungal specks descriptions appears to be other fungal taxonomists, because many aspects of the new species were presented only implicitly, if at all. Although many of the parameters we estimated show a gradual, and in some cases marked, change for the better over time, they still paint a somewhat bleak picture of mycological taxonomy as a male-dominated field where the wants and needs of an extended target audience are often not understood or even considered. This study hopes to leave a mark on the way fungal species are described by putting the focus on ways in which fungal taxonomy can better anticipate the end users of species descriptions - be they mycologists, other researchers, the public at large, or even algorithms. In the end, fungal taxonomy, too, is likely to benefit from such measures.