outlets for alpha taxonomy

Bill Shear wshear at EMAIL.HSC.EDU
Wed Jan 30 10:31:37 CST 2002

It has been made abundantly clear by many studies (summarized recently in
Scientific America) that magnetic and optical media fall far short of the
permanence of paper publication.  Unlike much of the biological literature,
which becomes of historical interest only shortly after publication (as new
studies supersede it), taxanomic publication is for the ages.   A century
from now, it will be necessary to examine the species descriptions, figures,
and type data published this year.  At this point, without hard copy, it is
difficult to imagine how this will be done.

Web publication is even more ephemeral than publication via magnetic or
electronic media.  Hard copy is required to meet the criterion of

Thus I think the ICZN wise to insist on it until more permanent means of
electronic publication arise.  Also, the hard copy requirement is relatively
modest: a few copies can be made and placed in designated repository
libraries, and the criteria as to what constitutes publication have been

I do feel a bit resentful about the comment that taxonomic papers "take up
space" in journals that, by implication, might devote their pages to more
important matters.  Taxonomy IS important, and deserves all of the space it
gets in those relatively few journals still willing to publish it.

Electronic publication is great, but for now, let's parallel it with hard
copy for permanence.

Bill Shear
Department of Biology
Hampden-Sydney College
Hampden-Sydney VA 23943
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