I am sorry that the journal Calodema, which had such potential to be a fresh and bravely outspoken voice, has instead become an organ that peals out arguments for the indefensible. All discoveries made must be open to scrutiny, and in the exploration of the most marvelous — species other than ours — the goal should be not numbers, as if the manifest destiny of everyone interested in, say, beetles, should be to stake a claim on every little crawler that comes into one's path.
In the case of frequent contributor to Calodema, Mr. Dewanand Makhan, the rogue in the eye of this storm, it's taken me years to write this more definitive reassessment because the criticisms of him by the scientific community have been polluted by many scientists who pealed out arguments against him that were petty and not relevant, thus obscuring what was and is important. The outrage over naming a new species after members of his family is just silly, when compared by the fates suffered by the slime-mold beetles named after Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld. May those entomologists who burdened those innocents with the names of this trio be visited pre-dust by other members of the coleoptera family who can hasten inevitability.
These are the valid criticisms of DM and thus Calodema, in my opinion.
- DM does not allow scrutiny.
- DM does not show adequate knowledge of the phylogenetic relationships of species, and even makes many mistakes that show a poor knowledge of anatomy.
- DM shows an overriding interest in the numbers of species he "discovers", and pretends an expertise level adequate to claim discovery of a peaceable kingdom's-worth of creatures. (My hero, Asher E. Treat, devoted a lifetime to mites of moths and butterflies, and would have considered himself unworthy to say "eureka" to a beetle, even if it had a molybdenum-coated pronotum and elytra that blared "Rule, Brittania" when opened. He would, however, save that beetle, and send it to an expert, specifically, one who is most knowledgeable in the field of coleoptera that sound out prom tunes.)
- Thus, DM brings the historically important, respectable, and necessary "amateur enthusiast" into disrepute. By publishing the papers of this charlatan and arguing on his behalf, Trevor Hawkeswood has ruined what could be a valuable publication and hurt his own reputation.
30 Jan 2010 — POSTSCRIPT: There has been enormous controversy about the scientific integrity of this journal and about Trevor Hawkeswood, so please read the comments, too, especially today's post by "R".
I applaud scientists who uphold the tenets of true science, and have called for those standards to be upheld also, in posts such as "So really. What IS science? Mere miracles?"
So the controversy about Hawkeswood is important insofar as it illustrates how much scientific integrity matters to some scientists.
If only they would speak up more when it comes to "science" in the aid of profits or a well-funded machine of a campaign.
How, for instance, could the Himalaya melt debacle happen?
CALODEMA natural history and biology journal
In my introduction to this unboxable footsore researcher and prolific writer, I didn't touch upon his journal, Calodema, a publication so surprisingly fascinating that I urged him to adjust his subscription prices so that subscriptions are attractive. And they are now, though this is one journal that is worth every issue at full price.
The surprise is that the articles in Calodema (named after the cover star of Hawkeswood's indispensable though long out of print Beetles of Australia, Angus & Robertson Publishers, 1987) are page-turners, even to this layperson.
The writing in Calodema is never dry, though sometimes it is scorching. There are topics that resound far beyond the world of natural history. One issue, for instance, gave me the excuse I always needed for my habit of reading several things at once. In this case, a book review by K.L. Dunn discussed plagiarism, and the rather sneaky style of plagiarism that he showed was practiced in that book was exactly that of the famed Mrs. Beeton as discussed by Kathryn Hughes in the enlightening book The Short Life & Long Times of Mrs Beeton. Another article in Calodema, by Hawkeswood himself, discusses the process of submission review procedures of another journal--and he doesn't mince words. There is a good deal of irreverence in every issue. J.D. O'Dea dares to bring up "Problems with the Honeybee Dance Language". A series of articles by Dewanand Makhan answered with a good deal of charm, a question that I've never had answered – Where do names come from? Also in that issue are the largest drawings I've ever seen, of coleoptera male genitalia.
So far, I haven't found an uninteresting page in Calodema, and it's refreshing that the journal is so understandable to someone like me, who enjoys the Janet and John part of Nature, but finds the papers themselves mostly incomprehensible. The first issues of Calodema had a majority of articles authored by Hawkeswood (rightly called a swashbuckler by another scientist who sails the dangerous seas of research and submission), but increasingly there are more (brave?) authors in Calodema, and the journal is truly international. I highly recommend Calodema to everyone with even a smidgen of interest in the world around them.
Although Hawkeswood doesn't blog, his website is a virtual Circus (and not just of the spineless). The site contains an ever-growing body of papers that he has put on for anyone to read. His attitude to knowledge is in the spirit of the open access movement, and his works tie in perfectly with the attitude of The Encyclopedia of Life and Edward O. Wilson, who Hawkeswood calls his "hero".
Hawkeswood actually said to me that he didn't want to hide his investigations, only to "pop off" with the information lost, as some have. Unless he meets the mother of all assassin bugs, we have many years left to enjoy along with Hawkeswood, a literate passion for the natural world.