[Taxacom] Proposed ICZN amendments on electronic , > publishing - what about types?
rrougeri at uoguelph.ca
Fri Dec 5 10:54:29 CST 2008
I fully agree with the recent emphasis put by Jim on the content of the
taxonomic paper and its access rather than its form and the "access to
As a taxonomist, working on group of moths with a very very high
contribution from the amateur community, with frequent insane
competition resulting in a flurry of self-published journals (almost
each taxonomists has his own journal now... quite a nightmare!), I have
been first quite excited by the perspective of change possibly occurring
through registration of names, e-publication and so on...
Definitely this amendment may offer interesting new options for the
taxonomists, and it's worth discussing it... but I don't see there a
solution to long lasting problems. If what's important is the content,
then the code won't help much.
Let's get an actual example, I'm sure we all have plenty like this.
Recently, a colleague and friend - amateur taxonomist (by amateur I
mean it's not his job... nothing else) - decided to get a little more
freedom for his new species descriptions and to start printing his own
publication medium, on his home-printer... he put an ISBN on it, claimed
he sent it to major libraries (shall I double check if it's right, and
if all printed versions are the exact same? I think I have a better
usage of my time...), and he distributes it to his friends. I'm actually
not sure if it reaches as well the "competitor" taxonomists... or ok,
I'm sure it does not.
Obviously, a e-publication would allow easier retrieval of the
publication through a search engine, and it may then be considered a
progress as far as creation of your e-medium, by being easier, does not
encourage this kind of practice.
Basically my point is that amendment or not, the problem is still here
and taxonomic information will still be scattered, more or less easily
accessible, and more or less reliable. The validity/availability of a
name is ruled by the code, but it's quite little demanding as for the
quality of the original description. So it's sometimes nice to be able
to access the OD, sometimes it's useless... and the only thing useful to
access whatever the quality of that OD, is the type specimens.
So to get back to the emphasis on the **content** of taxonomic
publications, maybe there the final objects that should be considered
are (1) the primary type, and (2) the nomenclatural acts. The latter are
certainly tricky to manage properly because of priority rules, some
subjective decisions that can or cannot be accepted by pairs, etc... but
if only one thing should be really looked after and properly managed,
it's the primary types. So should not we discussing that point? (again -
I imagine it's been discussed well before I even know about the
existence of a code, the existence of taxacom, etc...) I mean a way of
improving access and registration of types.
Why not give to Museum or other major public Natural History
institutions a central role (kind of gate keeper of taxonomy - sounds
fairly legitimate to me) by having (at last) type depository made
mandatory in these institutions; I know it's an old and long debate, but
types represent the basis of any taxonomic act, and eventually any
taxonomic decision/discussion refers to one... Maybe stricter rules for
types and a clearer, more established and central role for Museum or
affiliated institutions would ease further development of accessibility
to related taxonomic information.
In the example above, if that taxonomist HAD to deposit the types of his
new species into a Museum to have it valid, and if that museum should
register the deposit as well as the act (reference to the publication),
then centuries from now, the only very important thing that will have to
be conserved is that registry (our beloved Zoological Record, both
printed and e-accessible) not the original description... The registry
will tell what, when, and where the type is supposed to be; if lost or
destroyed, the code's been designed to handle it... Of course it's
better if the OD's still available and good, but well maybe not quite
the first of our problem. If the OD's poor, hazardously distributed (who
really knows) as in the case mentioned, whatever the medium was paper or
electronic and as far as the taxa in it are valid, I'm really more
concerned about the types... luckily that guy's a friend, I have access
to the types in his collection, at least for now.
Sorry to turn the discussion beyond that amendment, but that's
personally where I would expect the most important changes for the
future of the field, not that much into enabling or not e-publications.
A central (mandatory) registry like Zoobank is a fantastic step forward
IMO, a central role of Natural History institutions and mandatory
deposit of types would also greatly help, and from there could radiate
all of the nice and powerful opportunities offered by new technologies,
databasing, use of unique identifiers, etc... Maybe it's too
"liberticide" though... but is it as controversial as peer-review? I'm
Rodolphe Rougerie, PhD
Canadian Centre for DNA Barcoding
Biodiversity Institute of Ontario
University of Guelph
579 Gordon street
N1G 2W1 Canada
Tel. 1-519-824-4120 ext 53800
Email: rrougeri at uoguelph.ca
The Barcode of Life Database (BoLD): http://www.boldsystems.org
All-Leps Barcode of life: http://www.lepbarcoding.org/
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