Taxonomic Registration

Richard Pyle deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG
Fri Aug 2 10:51:14 CDT 2002

Rod Tulloss wrote:

> How about this: When you read an article
> you won't know if the names published are valid unless the publication
> waits for confirmation that all included names are registered.

This is an excellent point, and one that I had also considered.  My feeling
is that registration would be independednt of publication -- at least at the
beginning.  Generally, I imagine that responsibility for registering the
name would rest with the author (except when the author has no convenient
internet access, and requests that the Journal editor do so).  In some
cases, the author would register the name at the time of manuscript
submission (in which case the name would be in the database, but not
"complete" to the point of "available" until after the reference citation
details are added to the registration record, post-publication).  Such a
system of pre-registration would be enhanced if, at the time of original
registration (when no publication details are yet available), the author
enters an estimated date of publication; afterwhich the registration server
sends periodic emails back to the author requesting that the author either
provide citation details if they are available, provide a new estimate of
when it will be published, or cancel the registration.  These sorts of
details could be easily hammered out.

This pre-publication approach would be done if the author wanted, e.g., to
include the registration number in the manuscript.  Alternatively, the
author could register the names at the time of reviewing galley proofs, or
perhaps at the time that reprints were received -- so that complete citation
details could be entered at the time of registration.

If you, the reader of an article with a new taxon description, wanted to
know if it was registered yet -- you would simply go to one of the many
mirrored registration websites to see if it had been entered (robust search
capabilites by author, epithet, parent taxon, journal, etc.).  You would
either find it to be there and complete, there and incomplete, or not there
at all.  If one of the former two, you would at minimum have the email
address of the person who registered it.  Maybe you could even register it
(or complete the registration) yourself.  Again, these sorts of details
could easily be hammered-out during the prototype phase.

The point is, you as the reader already must do the hard part -- determine
if the publication meets IC_N rules, determine if the description,
typification, etc. all meet requisite rules.  Compared to that
code-jocky-level activity, doing a quick search on a registration website is
a no-brainer.  In fact, as Steve suggested, there could easily be a history
of peer-review attached to each registered name, so that by going to the
registration web site and looking up the name, you could perhaps be able to
see commentary from any number of code-jockies as to the Code-Compliance of
the original published description, saving you the need to figure that stuff
out yourself.

Doug Yanega correctly pointed out that he's already covered a lot of this
stuff before (sorry Doug...I didn't intend to usurp you on own
perspectives have been influenced by your earlier taxacom posts, which
partly explains the convergence.  Of course, the convergence can also be
partly explained by the truism that "great minds think alike".... :-)  ).

As for your approach:

"all new names would be published via a single source, both
electronic and hardcopy. Publication would be free, registration
of names automatic, and viewing would be free. Authors would all
be anonymous, reviews would all be public, open to EVERYONE in
the scientific community..."


I agree this is where we ought to end up (single electronic publication
venue for all new names, with open peer review before publication), but
given the general inertia involved with the larger taxonomic community, and
the valid point of concern to err on the side of conservatism (i.e., "first,
do no harm"), I think a more feasible approach is to take it in "baby
steps".  Going for the brass ring right at the get-go might kill it before
it has a chance.  The first baby step would be to develop a prototype server
somewhere, and get interested taxonomists to start test-driving it (in the
absence of a code requirement).  The next baby step would be to get a
requirement for registration (in addition to existing requirements) included
on the next draft code when it goes out for circulation.  By that time, the
prototype project should be fairly well refined, synchronization standards
set, protocols established, etc.  Once we get over the hump of adding this
one small extra step in the "availability" chain in the next version of the
code (2005?), then the system can be further refined/expanded over time as
the taxonomic community sees fit.  The important thing is that the basic
registration structure/requirement would be in place. That serves as a
spring-board for future enhancement in future versions of the Codes.

But you summed up the bottom line perfectly, I think:

"Any problem you can imagine, we can work out a simple
solution for it."

The question is, who will step forward and build the prototype?  BIOSIS?
Linnaean Society? GBIF? Species2000? ITIS? All-Species? Hell, if nobody else
has done it by early 2003, I just may go ahead and build it myself (with the
ICZN President's blessings, of course...). (How's THAT for a threat, eh?
That ought to get people mobilized....)


Richard L. Pyle
Ichthyology, Bishop Museum
1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI 96817
Ph: (808)848-4115, Fax: (808)847-8252
email: deepreef at
"The opinions expressed are those of the sender, and not necessarily those
of Bishop Museum."

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