electronic publication

Tue Mar 25 07:08:33 CST 1997

Quote from yesterday:
"Digital data  does not  change and  is less  perishable than

Sorry to  be blunt,  but this  is total  nonsense. The debate
thus  far   has  been   centered  around  whether  electronic
publication  can  replace  printed  descriptions.  This  task
presents enough  problems. The suggestion that digital images
can replace specimens changes the nature of the question, and
is an idea I must strenuously oppose.

There are  specimens in  European herbaria  500 years old. If
they are  properly cared for, they will still be available to
be  examined   by  the  famous  24th-Century  botanist  Keiko
O'Brian.  True,  specimens  are  subject  to  insect  damage,
weather damage, water damage, and political misfortunes (such
as what  happened to  B and  PNH in  the 1940's). Any digital
archiving system  devised will  be subject  to all  the  same
dangers and  more (except maybe the insects). Digital systems
are also  subject to  technological  change,  something  from
which specimens  are totally  immune. A few days ago, someone
was touting  the advantages  of publication by CD-ROM, saying
it will be "at least 30 or 40 years" before the technology is
outdated. That  is not  good enough.  Because of the priority
rules in  nomenclature, we need to look 100 or 200 years into
the future.  Will present-day  technology still  be in use in
the year  2197? No, of course not. It will be viewed upon the
way we view upon parchment scrolls. Will our technology still
be readable?  Maybe, maybe  not. We cannot assume it will be.
As for the argument "This information is so important someone
will undoubtedly  take care  of it,"  one cannot  assume that
someone else  will value  your work as much as you do. Unless
you are willing to contribute the time and resources yourself
to ensure  that your work will still be accessible for future
generations, do not assume that someone else will.

Dr. Joseph E. Laferriere, 4717 E First St., Tucson AZ 85711 USA.
After 10 Apr 1997: Herbario, CEAMISH, Universidad Autonoma del
Estado de Morelos, Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico.

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