Fwd: Digitial Publication, etc.

Doug Yanega dyanega at POP.UCR.EDU
Tue Jun 26 09:41:37 CDT 2001

Chris Thompson wrote:

>As usual Doug glosses over the details

Guilty as charged.

>So, there is "no double
>standard," because the ICZN does not reject publications printed on cheap

But one thing I glossed over - and you, as well - was that (as others
have pointed out in the past) at least we don't need special
technology to read something printed on cheap paper. If I published
by reading aloud on an Edison-style wax cylinder and making copies of
the recording, it might satisfy the Code, but people might have some
fun finding a way to listen to it.

>And the answer to Doug's question of ""Why are we still not doing what all
>these other scientists have been doing - competently - for so long?" is that
>no other Science follows PRIORITY as does Systematics / Taxonomy. We have
>accepted a paradigm which requires an archival element which it is critical
>to know exactly what was "written" [disseminated] when. Other sciences
>really don't care about priority, don't care whether the record is changed,
>etc. and definately do not look back to 1758!

I can read the electronic time stamp on your posting:

Date:         Tue, 26 Jun 2001 07:32:50 -0400

and know to the nearest *second* when it was "published". I can do
the same for e-mail messages I received from you over 10 years ago.
One can put time stamps on web pages. That seems to satisfy your
requirements as to knowing when something was "written."

In fact, your point - and Stephen Manning's followup - constitute a
good argument *for* electronic publication. The task of a modern
taxonomist can be a tedious one, struggling to locate hard copies of
200-year-old descriptions. Even a 50-year old publication can be
nearly impossible to track down, if it's in some obscure, exotic
journal. This problem persists as long as we continue to require
hardcopy. If we go electronic, then a single central science archive
becomes a genuine possibility, and (let's be honest) even for
scientists in the most disadvantaged countries, it is easier to get
web access than to get to a good library. How many of us have
colleagues or have seen requests from people who are desperate for
any copies of any journals, because their libraries don't have them
and can't *get* them? Furthermore, if they *do* create a single,
central, interdisciplinary science archive, then every government and
science agency in the world will work diligently to ensure that it
persists as long as there are people to use it. It would be
self-destructive for us to isolate ourselves from such an endeavor,
akin to stuffing money in a mattress instead of putting it in an
insured bank.

B.J. Tindall added:

>Putting everything on the Internet is only a solution to
>things in routine usage and you have to archive the older material somehow,
and it is that archived material which gathers dust!

Older material *can* be scanned and archived. Furthermore, once part
of a *community* archive, it doesn't matter how much demand any
single archived item generates, so "routine usage" is meaningless; it
lasts as long as the entire archive does, which is why the bigger the
archive, the better. If your vision of an electronic archive doesn't
extend past the borders of your discipline, then you're thinking on
the wrong scale, and probably doomed to failure when your money runs
out or your server crashes. The MDs and astrophysicists and
biochemists probably couldn't care less about us, but if our data are
archived along with theirs, then ours will never be lost. If we
remain fiercely independent, however, we'll be left behind, and never
escape from our stacks of dusty, decaying books. No wonder so few
students view alpha taxonomy as a rewarding pursuit:
"Well, this insect you just caught *could* be species X, or may be
undescribed, but in order to know for *sure* you'd have to track down
the original descriptions of the 38 species in the genus, which has
never been revised, so there are 20 different publications you need,
only 8 of which are in the campus library, and only 8 more of which
are available through interlibrary loan...so you'll never be certain
WHAT it is unless you can track down the type specimens of the 4 you
can't find the descriptions for...and that assumes the remaining
descriptions are adequate, or that you can get *those* type
specimens, if not."
I've literally had to tell that to students. It utterly demoralizes them.

There is a better way, and paper won't get us there.


Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California - Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521
phone: (909) 787-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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