Response from NATURE

Eric Dunbar erdunbar at MAC.COM
Mon Jun 17 09:54:04 CDT 2002

> "great fragmentation of taxonomic publication"
> Could be said of any science. Irrelevant.

At the risk of repeating myself, I have to respectfully disagree. Taxonomic
data is unique in the biological sciences in that the variability of the
information generated is low (compared to, let's say ecology in all its
guises). As such, fragmentation of taxonomic publication serves little
purpose and does *far* more harm than good to the end-users of taxonomic
information (doing taxonomy for taxonomy's sake is a pointless endeavour if
it never sees the light of day IMNSHO).

Having a central publication would be equally fruitless (as has been argued
here by every post), but having a central repository with (at the very
least) abstracts and citations would undoubtedly advance the science of
taxonomy, and the dissemination of the information created more than the
current state of affairs.

You can get a poor version of such search capability with standard
biological search engines (e.g. SciCitation Index or BioAbstracts) but there
is so much extra stuff in there you're going to have a hell of a time
teasing out the important information.

> "would benefit from a high profile, centralized repository of nomenclature
> [meaning taxonomy]"
> Already in place - at least in the sense that Nature seems to want - a
> simple literature deposit from which limited data will be online. Copyright
> problems surely prevent fulltext from other sources being online. Also
> many internet projects providing access to names underway - big doubt
> in my mind that some of these are sophisticated enough in their
> understanding & presentation of taxonomic data to be really really useful.

Provided a large portion of practising taxonomists end up using it, yes it
will be in place :).

> "inability of taxonomists to forge united initiatives"
> Ouch! Is that true?  Could be. :-)


Sincerely, Eric.

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