From codens to communication...

Julian Humphries jmh3 at CORNELL.EDU
Tue May 10 09:25:27 CDT 1994

Luis A. Ruedas writes:

 I believe that increasing
>computerization would lead to the alienation of a very large portion
>of the systematic/taxonomic community.

I find this hard to accept.  Every major organization that has an impact or
influence within our field, be it NSF, SA2000, or efforts of SSB, ASC, etc
includes an increasing component of computerization for collections
oriented and systematic research.  I have little sympathy for the attitude
that computerization is somehow "bad" for these areas of endeavor.  We
stand little chance of improving (or even maintaining) the stature of our
science if we refuse to take advantage of the improved communication and
education that computerization offers.


>Is it really cheaper to provide a diskette with each issue of a
>journal (or however many diskettes would be needed for as many
>articles of a journal) than it is to tack on a few more printed pages?

Absolutely.  Cheaper yet to archive the data on the net.

> I am relatively adamant about
>maintaining "Specimens Examined" sections in journal articles.

Why, if the data are more easily (and completely) available elsewhere?


>Again, the issue is not so much codens any more, but limiting the
>access of data and information.  Just as an example, I have not seen
>many messages posted on "TAXACOM" by folks in Asia (I cannot remember
>if there have been any) and there certainly do not appear to have been
>many postings from Africa.  Does it follow that individuals from these
>parts of the world are uninterested in systematics?  Certainly that
>could be one interpretation.  I suspect that a more realistic
>interpretation is that there is no ready access to Internet and all
>its accessory data sharing capabilities.

I would suggest that it is far more likely that our colleagues in these
countries will get Internet access before they get complete, up to date
paper based libraries.  Electronic access to papers and data would
*increase* availability of information in the 3rd world.

>While gopher servers are not the be all and end all of electronic
>networking, surely I will be granted that they provide some sort of
>baseline estimate of electronic capabilities.  Does electronic
>publishing mean that we simply will no longer yield data to
>systematists (or any other scientists) in New Guinea, Vietnam,
>Philippines, Nepal, Cameroun, Togo, .... (the names imply no slight:
>I'd really like to go to those places).

See above, my guess is a researcher in Nepal is not going to have a very
good library.

>Is it peer reviewed?  Nobody reviews or edits my Taxacom musings, and
>I certainly do not list them on my CV.  Those two items tend to be
>decent criteria.

There are peer reviewed electronic journals.  (Flora online comes to mind)

I don't mean to disparage your views about the importance of ancillary data
associated with taxonomic publication.  I find it frustrating that editors
remove what I consider to be important geographical or other notes about
specimens examined as part of a systematic work.  But my real frustration,
is that these journals don't have an alternative means of depositing these
data in electronic form.  For better or worse (and I believe, better) get
use to electronic publication surplanting paper based versions.  I will
make a prediction that by the end of the decade most every major scientific
publication will have both electronic and paper based versions and that the
paper version will be a subset of the electronic one.  Within 10-15 years
the paper based versions will start to dissappear.  If anything, I may be
underestimating the speed of transition.

I would note that although this topic started with codens the entire issue
of data standardization is relevant here.  We undertake to make our
community a more accessible, standardized one (as did the librarians 20+
years ago), because we want to participate in the increasingly electronic
world that science take place in.

Julian Humphries
The Vertebrate Collections and The MUSE Project, Cornell University
Building 3, Research Park
83 Brown Road
Ithaca, NY  14850

Voice: 607-257-8143
Fax:   607-257-8109
Email: jmh3 at

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