18th Century mentality in the 21st Century

Hendrik Segers hendrik.segers at RUG.AC.BE
Fri Nov 16 12:57:17 CST 2001

Dear Doug, Robin, colleagues:

Doug Yanega wrote:
> Though this is probably an unpopular thing to say, I believe it is
> absolutely necessary, for the future of our science, that we either
> establish or designate a single agency which will act as THE
> universal nomenclatural clearing-house; this will be the SOLE agency
> with which all new names must be registered, and it must also be
> empowered to review, publish, archive, and disseminate new
> *electronic* taxonomic works (in addition to the registration and
> archival functions of external publications). Done properly, this
> could be accomplished without even requiring authors to pay fees, and
> by simple natural selection would likely become the *primary* place
> for all new names to be published. Wouldn't you prefer to publish in
> a free journal which could make your work available to everyone on
> the entire web within 2 days of receiving the referee's final
> comments?

I agree with the sole, universal nomenclatural clearing-house, but
restricted to web-publications affecting nomenclature. The idea of a
registration agency for all published nomenclatural acts has been proposed
repeatedly in the past, but never made it past the drawing board in zoology.
In addition, I doubt whether it is necessary to attach an electronic journal
to it, as this is a different subject.  I suggest to stick to nomenclature,
that is, adhere to the "without infringing upon taxonomic judgement" clause
of the ICZN.

and Robin Panza wrote:
> That's a fine and noble thought, Doug, and I agree wholeheartedly in
> But who's going to pay the bills?  The ICZN/ICBN are essentially a bunch
> volunteers who establish policy and pass judgement in their spare time.
> have an organization empowered to do what you suggest will require several
> full-time (i.e., paid) staff (editors, webmasters, clerical staff), an
> internet site (computer and access, both of which cost money), supplies
> archives, staff and supplies for upgrading those archives each time
> technology moves on, etc., etc., etc.  Who pays for all this?

That's indeed a major problem. However, let's identify the basic needs:
1) Registration of web-based publications. The ICZN could impose authors of
such publications to send an e-copy to the central registry - that's one
extra "criterion of publication", and/or "criterion of availability".
2) Storage of the information on a server (preferably more than one - never
put all the eggs in one basket) - how many musea and associated libraries
would be willing to do that? They're storing types now. These can (and do)
get lost as well, but the odds of loosing e-publication are probably lower,
as the information can be easily copied (not so easy with types...).
3) Distribution of copies, according to art. 8.6 of the ICZN
4) Feedback to authors of e-publications: return of information on when
their publication is registered (could be relevant to determine an official
publication date?), and where copies are deposited.
5) Preferably but not strictly necessary: feedback to users: an index list
of registered names/nomenclatural acts published in e-publications, and a
way to distribute e-copies of e-publications to interested users, on request
(freely downloadable  *.pdf or whatever?)
With mandatory registration restricted to web-publications, some staff and
computer infrastructure would still be required. However, I doesn't appear
to me that this would be an overwhelming quantity, although attracting funds
may still be a problem. What is suggested above is a service to authors
and/or e-journals, and could be charged to them - but would they be willing
to pay? Although (free) publication (on paper, or parchment, Chris? ;-))
would still exist as alternative, an ICZN imposing registration of names
with a single office, connected to ICZN, and charging for the registration,
could raise some eyebrows. Another pitfall at this point could be that
self-proclaimed official registration offices, eventually  treating
different taxonomic groups, start to proliferate - considering the
overwhelming diversity in zoology (and zoologists), this may very well end
up in chaos. To gain universal support, a registration agency, if it would
materialize, should therefore work with the same restraint, and be connected
with, the Int. Commission on Zool. Nomenclature.


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

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