More GBIF questions (was: ITIS)-Open Access publishing

Tim Lowrey tlowrey at UNM.EDU
Fri Jun 25 11:13:55 CDT 2004

In response to Doug's new system proposal, I must say that I think it
is the future.  The physicist, mathematicians, and quantitative
biologist have already instituted this:
(Also see:  for
information about  the open access publishing debate.)
It  ( is a preprint archive where scientists can send their
mss. for comment and discussion.  They have the feature that at a
certain point these papers can then be forwarded to an electronic
journal(s) depending on the field of physics or math for formal
publication.  I advocate this method rather than just having a date
stamp in the preprint archive.
I don't want to get into the discussion of paper vs. electronic.  That
has really been worked out, as even the "paper journals" have gone
electronic although not many are completely so.  I think it will happen
but not easily I'm afraid because it is a complex field.  Someone needs
to the start the process with a preprint system and see how it works.
The problems and complaints can then be worked on.  Paul Ginsparg now
at Cornell, did this for the Physics community while he was at Los
Alamos.  It  caught on rather quickly.  I am not equating systematics
with physics by any means (let's not go down that road).  However, we
systematists are going to have to think globally and interactively as
Doug suggests.
Tim Lowrey

On Jun 24, 2004, at 5:13 PM, Doug Yanega wrote:

> Now consider the type of system I'm proposing: taxonomist A puts up a
> draft manuscript onto the global taxonomy website, and every
> subscriber in the world who has flagged that as a taxon of interest
> is instantly notified (including taxonomist B). Taxonomist B puts up
> a rebuttal within a week, with a detailed list of objections, and an
> alternative classification. All the other subscribers reading this
> exchange can, if they desire, sign on as a reviewer at any point with
> questions or criticisms of their own for either taxonomist, and both
> A and B can respond directly to the questions and criticisms, even
> altering their classifications as they go along, in response (i.e.,
> real-time feedback). So, rather than a handful (or zero) reviewers,
> and one bout of editing, there can be dozens, even hundreds, and all
> without long delays or wasted paper. After a certain period, one or
> the other (or both, if neither has capitulated) would be "published"
> and officially available for use by the general public - meaning, in
> a practical sense, little more than a date stamp on a version the
> authors and reviewers agree is final; it might never need be
> committed to paper, if proper digital archive protocols are in place,
> and the whole thing might not even take a month from start to finish.
> So, instead of "Taxonomists who expect the world to await their final
> pronouncements", we would have taxonomists who have to appease
> anywhere up to hundreds of their critical peers, and possibly work it
> out in public with their detractors in an actual coutroom-style
> *debate*, evidence and all, and - even more - be able to edit,
> update, or completely retract their pronouncements, even after
> "publication".
> Under such a system, it seems unlikely that two (or more) opposing
> opinions could share the spotlight for long, and one could even have
> a vote solely for the purpose (and I stress the word "SOLELY"!) of
> deciding which classification should be adopted by the community as
> the one to be used in the Consensus Classification. No one is
> ultimately prevented from publishing their views (except, of course,
> if they cannot muster a single favorable review, which is the way it
> works with paper publication), and folks can keep track of
> alternative classifications in the master database, but at any given
> moment, there would be a single Consensus Classification available to
> that large pool of users who do NOT want to worry about
> contentiousness or flexibility. While I understand what Richard is
> getting at with his "I feel lucky" approach, I still do think that
> the user community will - on the whole - *resent* being told that an
> element of classification, be it order name, family, or species, is
> "ambiguous" or "tentative". If we want public support *for* taxonomy,
> I think we need to give the public something that won't leave them
> feeling queasy *about* taxonomy. For that matter, with the use of
> GUID's, changes in the Consensus can be instantly propagated
> throughout the entire dataverse, so no one ever has to rely on
> outdated information, nor ever wait for a consensus to emerge; the
> consensus opinion on a suggested change or addition would be made
> simultaneously with the act of publication.
> This is a RADICALLY different view of how the taxonomic community
> could operate than the context Meredith is thinking of, I'm certain -
> under the status quo, yes, consensus among taxonomists is definitely
> a pipedream, but the status quo assumes a fragmented community with
> no central meeting place, no one venue where everyone can interact.
> Now imagine how differently we could do things if we dump the status
> quo and choose instead to be a truly interactive community. This is
> *not* a fantasy, and I sincerely hope that you don't see it as such;
> it's a *choice*, available if we want it to be.
> Put it this way: if you were offered the chance to publish, quickly,
> for free, without page limits, without restrictions on graphics,
> tables, data matrices, or other ancillary materials, and knew that
> every other researcher in your field would be able to review your
> work (without fear of plagiarism, or unfair criticism), and that
> every reader who needed your work would have instant access to it,
> would you *refuse* to publish this way? If so, why? If none of you
> can say that you would refuse, then what exactly is keeping us from
> implementing such a system?
> That's essentially the "brass ring" that Richard says I'm suggesting
> we aim for. I don't see what we'd *lose* by attempting it, nor see it
> as a fantasy.
> Peace,
> --
> Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research
> Museum
> Univ. of California - Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521
> phone: (909) 787-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not
> UCR's)
>   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
>         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82
Tim Lowrey, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Biology, Regent's Lecturer, and Curator, UNM
Museum of Southwestern Biology
Department of  Biology
University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131
Tel: 505-277-2604
Fax: 505-277-6079

"It's possible to understand the world from studying a leaf.  You can
comprehend the laws of aerodynamics, mathematics, poetry, and biology
through the complex beauty of such a perfect structure.

It's also possible to travel the whole globe and learn nothing"
Joy Harjo, 1994.

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