[Taxacom] Proposed ICZN amendments on electronic publishing

Frank.Krell at dmns.org Frank.Krell at dmns.org
Wed Dec 3 19:09:51 CST 2008

Dear all,

it is great that this topic comes to Taxacom. Discussion of the
amendment is crucial.

Just a few remarks to what was written so far:

The ICZN deals with nomenclature (formal naming), not with taxonomy
(science). Any peer-review that deals with the quality of the science is
outside the realm of the ICZN. We do not impose censorship or scientific
quality control (which is subjective anyway given the high rate of Nobel
price winning papers rejected by peers). Requiring peer-review for
nomenclatural acts would just mean that 'bad' taxonomists have to show
their papers to some equally 'bad' friends, and sometimes it is just a
question of perspective whether they are bad or the other two competing
taxonomists working on the same group.

The Amendment is not a done deal. It is up for discussion. The ICZN has
not promoted that some journals (BMC Evolutionary Biology, BMC
Microbiology, Parasites and Vectors, Frontiers in Zoology, PLOS One)
have already been publishing new names in an electronic-only form. Also
we haven't promoted that most journals of professional publishers (many
thousands, not only the palaeontological journal mentioned) are
published online many months in advance to the print version. It just
happens. It happens because the scientific community seems to prefer
rapid communication. The Amendment tries to find a solution for this
situation by giving guidelines for publication practices that are
currently in place without guidelines.

If we get a pdf of a publication, how do we know whether a paper copy
exists? Do we ever check the original paper copy before citing the pdf
for nomenclatural purposes? Most of us are far away from a comprehensive
library. With increasing replacement of reprints by pdfs and increasing
proportion of electronically delivered interlibrary loans, it is
difficult to determine whether a paper copy exists. We just assume.

Yes, electronic copies need a technical interface to be readable, and
electronic resources (URLs) etc. are generally ephemeral. We need to be
confident that established electronic archives are safe enough to
safeguard nomenclatural documents. This is a matter that needs extensive

At the moment, the first time something is published establishes
intellectual priority, whether the outlet is electronic or paper.
Nomenclatural priority still requires paper, produced in a print run
(not single copies by a print on demand publisher, by the way), or CDs
or other electronic hardcopy media deposited in at least five libraries
(whether they keep them or not). The IZTN does not believe differently.

We are looking forward to an intensive and controversial discussion.

Dr Frank T. Krell 
Curator of Entomology 
Editor, Systematic Entomology 
Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature 
Department of Zoology 
Denver Museum of Nature & Science 
2001 Colorado Boulevard 
Denver, CO 80205-5798 USA 
Frank.Krell at dmns.org 
Phone: (+1) (303) 370-8244 
Fax: (+1) (303) 331-6492 

-----Original Message-----
From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
[mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Richard Petit
Sent: Wednesday, December 03, 2008 4:08 PM
To: Dr. David Campbell; taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Proposed ICZN amendments on electronic publishing


There was minimum discussion about peer review, the bottom line being,
as always, that it is not practical.  

As for the on-line only publishing, it will be terrible for many
reasons.  Servers go down, lightning strikes, whatever - it is entirely
possible that all papers published on-line could be lost.  Then there is
the question of knowing about availability, indexing, cataloguing, etc.
Unfortunately all that probably does not matter.  All of the talk about
having this approved by the Commision appears to be a smoke screen as it
is already a "done deal."  A paleontological journal published out of
the BM(NH) [THE Natural History Museum] publishes on-line months before
a paper copy is available with replacement names, etc., out there for
anyone to use (and possibly preempt the authors). Correspondence with
the journal indicates that they think it is reasonable for them to do

The telling item, however, is that a former Commissioner, now a member
of the I.T.Z.N. (the group that owns the I.C.Z.N.) recently published a
book in which he stated about electronic publication that "paper copies
can follow on at a leisurely pace, because priority will have been

If the I.T.Z.N. believes that publication on line establishes priority,
it seems certain that a Code item to justify it is on the way despite
what individual systematists might desire.

dick p.

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