Future of CDROM, DVD, etc.

christian thompson cthompson at SEL.BARC.USDA.GOV
Fri Apr 28 13:12:42 CDT 2000

Some responses to your:

F. Christian Thompson
Systematic Entomology Lab., USDA
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, D. C. 20560
(202) 382-1800 voice
(202) 786-9422 FAX
cthompso at sel.barc.usda.gov

>>> "Andrew K. Rindsberg" <arindsberg at GSA.STATE.AL.US> 04/28 12:15 PM >>>

3. Despite this, taxonomic books are not universally available, even in
well-stocked parts of the world like California. What to do?

As Doug pointed out, books are not available in California BECAUSE they are
TOO EXPENSIVE. So, finding a cheaper means of dissemination BioSysematic
Information is the obvious answer.

4. Also, for about a century, many books were printed on inferior
and we will probably lose this information unless the works are reprinted,
deacidified, or electronically scanned. What should be done about this?

You have answered your own question. ELCTRONICALLY scan the old literature.
Consider, if each time a systematist prepared a "species WWW page" they also
include a scan of the original taxonomic description.  Then some day all the
critical original literature would be attached to most recent taxonomic
revision.  (check our Diptera WWW site for some examples of where we are
doing this).

6. Technologic change is also rapid -- too rapid for long-term storage to
be effective. Should we expect others to transfer all our data into new
formats every few years? Or should we feel responsible to archive
everything in one or another form? How can that be done in practice?

Yes, some of us will as necessary "migrate" critical literature, which I
see as those taxonomic WWW taxon pages, to the most appropriate formats of
the future Internet, etc. Others can print those pages off themselves on to
high quality paper. The decision will be local. Spend your money on
expensive paper products or on other things. Now many organization are
trapped into paying the ever increasing costs of paper literature, which
forces them to cut back on what they purchase and save.

8. Electronic publications have some advantages over printed publications,
notably, they can be longer, more colorful and animated, and can include
raw data as appendices. In principle, they can be reproduced in great
numbers at lower cost, and in less space, than printed works. Can we
envision electronic taxonomic libraries for use, say, in the tropics?

Obviously, where ever people have access to computers and the Internet,
whether the tropics or the arctic, etc., they will be able to use the
"taxonomic libraries" that we will build.

9. Electronic publications may be less expensive to distribute, but the
major costs are in compiling and editing, and especially in performing the
original research. Can we reduce the cost of journals by encouraging
scientific societies to publish more of them, as opposed to commercial

The MAJOR COSTS are in "performing the original research."  And those are
the same regardless of the dissemination media.  Editing and compiling a
journal of WWW taxonomic pages is cheaper, easier and faster than a paper
based journal. It can be all done electronically.  The other problem with
traditional journals is the cost of paper, printing, mailing, etc.  Our poor
scientific societies have problems enough as is that they are unlikely to
expand their paper journals. At least those societies I have worked for
(Willi Hennig Society versus Entomological Society of Washington, etc.),
have the choice of paying for their journals by page-charges or letting an
commerical corporation do it for them.

So, the bottom line is electronic publication and dissemination is far
cheaper and, hence, will save more $$$ dollars that can be spent on
"performing the original research."

10. Electronic publications have a bad track record for becoming suddenly
unreadable, unlike printed media. Electronic media must be standardized
made permanently readable before taxonomists can trust electronic media
long-term storage. Can we expect this to happen, say, in the next hundred

Yes, progress has a bad track record. But some how those things that
Society values are migrated to the new media. Consider the classic
performances of Toscanini, these are now on CDs.

Yes, unfortunately Society doesn't value taxonomy much, but I do feel it
will be easier for me and future taxonomists to "migrate" their critical
data that are in digital format that it is managing a file of xerox,
reprints, books, etc.

11. Printed-on-demand publications probably do not meet the requirements
the ICZN at present. Even if electronic media can be made better for
long-term storage, taxonomists will still have to face the question of
whether a mutable publication can be allowed for taxonomic purposes.

Yes, even photographs can be changed now. But then again Stalin did that
back in the 1930s without Photoshop!  But there are algorithms now that can
be used to ceritfy that the binary record has not be changed, etc.  So, the
requirement in at least our zoological code for immutable original
publication can be technologically achieved now and in the future.

Thanks Andy for summarizing the critical points.

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