18th Century mentality in the 21st Century

Hendrik Segers hendrik.segers at RUG.AC.BE
Thu Nov 15 15:27:34 CST 2001

Dear Chris, colleagues,

Fact is that, at present, Internet and WWW publication are not accepted by
the rules in the present edition of the ICZN. Fortunately, the ICZN is a
(somewhat) flexible tool, with clear procedures on how to adjust the rules
of nomenclature to evolutions in science and society.

The "raison d'ĂȘtre" of any code of scientific nomenclature is to promote
universality and stability in the names of organisms, many of which were
published long ago in papers containing now obsolete science. The ephemeral
character of present-day web-based publication conflicts with the concepts
on which of our nomenclature tools are based. Hence, there appear to be only
two valid approaches to web-based publication at present. Either such
publications are ignored as far as nomenclature (not science!) is concerned
(the option chosen by the editors of the present code, but this is indeed
probably not tenable in the long run), or a means is provided to ensure that
scientists will still be able to trace web-published information with
nomenclatural consequences within 10 (or 20, or 100) years. This, IMHO, can
at present only be achieved by an independent organisation (such as the Int.
Commission on Zool. Nomenclature) where electronic publications could be
deposited, and which would have to take care of the preservation (and -
preferably - free dissemination) of nomenclatural information published on
the web. To my knowledge, such an organisation does not exist.

Cheers, Hendrik.


Dr. H e n d r i k  S e g e r s
Lab. Animal Ecology, Zoogeography and Nature Conservation
Dept. Biology, Ghent University
K.L. Ledeganckstraat 35
B-9000 Gent Belgium

tel.: +32 (0) 9 264 52 54
fax: +32 (0) 9 264 53 43
e-mail: Hendrik.Segers at rug.ac.be

----- Original Message -----
From: "christian thompson" <cthompson at SEL.BARC.USDA.GOV>
Sent: Thursday, November 15, 2001 2:08 PM
Subject: 18th Century mentality in the 21st Century

> Yes, Ron, Hendrik, John, Doug, et alia,
> we can ignore the Internet and WWW and safely hide behind our codes of
> nomenclature and remain happily in the world of Linnaean Science as
> practiced in 18th Century. That is easy: Simply ignore anything that isn't
> printed on paper (except for those occassional CD-ROM under the ICZN),
> declaring it isn't "Science" because it isn't "published" (sensu ICZN,
> etc.).
> Unfortunately, the rest of Science has long ago abandoned such a narrow,
> primitive view of the World. Digital publication via the Internet / WWW as
> well as many other things (such as applying for NSF grants, for example)
> the minimal acceptable standards for communications.
> Some of us would like the Public to invest millions if not billions into
> community projects like the Tree of Life and ALL (All Life List), but what
> is the Public going to think when we declare we are only going to
> communicate the same way Linnaeus did 250 years ago, ink on paper, and
> despite the obvious fact that that method has only documented about 10% of
> the estimated amount of life on Earth and has contributed very little to
> understanding of the hierarchical relationships about those taxa. (Try to
> get a NSF grant via paper and the US Postal Service.)
> If systematics is going to survive, get the increased funding it views as
> necessary to fulfill its challenges, etc., then we must embrace the newer
> technologies that the rest of Science has found useful and productive.
> Digital communications is one of those. We can make the new ICZN work in
> such a World, but, in computer-speak, it will be a "hack/kludge" and once
> that happens then it may be time for a new edition or we may discover that
> the ICZN is no longer necessary.
> Details:
> Dug, there is a significant different between manuscripts which are
> circulated among colleagues and "publishing" information on the WWW. And
> while people do circulate manuscripts on the WWW, the difference remains a
> always the intent "to make public" that defines "publish" in English. So,
> like in everything else, one must seek to differentiate one's intent when
> one communicates.
> So, for the record, one may and should cite what is posted to TAXACOM, but
> it is not "publication" in the sense of ICZN nor in the sense of
> "peer-reviewed" Science! It is merely the same discussion which happens at
> scientific meetings, and, once, when publication was cheap was printed and
> published sensu ICZN! Now it is digital. And obviously, while you guys are
> wanting the paper world of Linnaeus, you are fighting for it in the
> world of today.
> Smile :-)
> F. Christian Thompson
> Systematic Entomology Lab., ARS, USDA
> Smithsonian Institution
> Washington, D. C. 20560-0169
> (202) 382-1800 voice
> (202) 786-9422 FAX
> cthompso at sel.barc.usda.gov [NB: no terminal "n"]
> visit our Diptera site at www.diptera.org

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