Electronic publication

Robert Mesibov mesibov at SOUTHCOM.COM.AU
Wed Oct 30 19:44:02 CST 2002

Could I ask for comment about a possible problem with electronic publication?

The 4th ICZN says a taxonomic work must (section 8.13) 'have been produced
in an edition containing simultaneously obtainable copies by a method that
assures numerous identical and durable copies.' It also says (section 9.8)
that text or illustrations distributed by means of electronic signals (e.g.
by means of the World Wide Web)' does not constitute published work.

My query concerns taxonomic work published both in print and online, as for
example the papers in the journal Zootaxa. Let's imagine that a
peer-reviewed paper is published in a journal and a substantial number of
copies are printed, distributed widely, deposited in major libraries, etc.
Under the Code, there's no disputing that the work has been published.

The journal also makes the paper available online as a downloadable PDF.
Because this is apparently identical to the printed version, it would be
widely regarded as an accurate copy of the published work. However, it
isn't. The print version has high-resolution images (say, SEM's). To keep
file size reasonable, the PDF version has lower-resolution images. The two
versions are therefore not identical.

Zootaxa (and other journals?) allows authors to put colour images in the
online version of a paper, whereas in the print version these are
gray-scale. Again, the two versions are not identical.

Sticking strictly to the letter of the code, and with an eye to past
problems of 'multiple versions' of taxonomic works, I would argue that in
these cases the print versions and only the print versions are the
taxonomic works. The PDF and online versions may be useful in understanding
more clearly the author's intent. They do not, however, constitute
published work, and the online journal should post a disclaimer to this effect.

This issue arose because I am considering the pro's and con's of an online
taxonomic issue of our Museum's journal. The issue would have a limited
number of print copies and would be distributed principally online and on
CD-ROM. It is possible to have exactly the same content in print and CD-ROM
versions, but the online version presents the difficulties noted above.

Dr Robert Mesibov
Honorary Research Associate
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery
Home contact: PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
(03) 64371195; 61 03 64371195

More information about the Taxacom mailing list