Preprints - potential problems - reply

Tue Jan 31 12:34:11 CST 1995

Alas, the problem of determining the first publication, and its
correct date of publication, is sometimes extremely difficult.
North American paleobotany suffers from this too, because many
of the type specimens were collected during surveys of the (then)
Territories during the late 1800's.  There was a series of annual
reports made to Congress, and then additional series of papers.

As best as I can tell from looking at the front pages, the reports
to Congress were published in a short run in one year but often
were not printed by the Government Printing Office for the public
until the following year.  Some references truncate the titles of
the reports, and either year may be used.  So, there are sometimes
three different publications to which a reference might apply, and
it is very difficult to work all this out without access to *all*
the volumes in question.

The point I want to make here is this:  preprints are not directly
responsible for creating these confusing bodies of literature.  It
seems more a matter of human nature.  We need to be more precise
in reporting the references we use.  Perhaps someday we will have
an "authority file" for the entire body of systematic literature,
just as we have begun to build one for the authors who created that

        Una Smith                       una.smith at

Department of Biology, Yale University, New Haven, CT  06520-8104

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