[Taxacom] Centrally supported electronic archive
mesibov at southcom.com.au
Thu May 28 18:23:44 CDT 2009
I wish the irrepressible Jim Croft hadn't referred to form markup as though it were a subclass of content markup, but never mind.
This discussion is losing its very useful focus on digital archiving and is moving towards something else. I could be wrong, but it sounds like the vision Doug Yanega offered on TAXACOM some years ago: a centralised, online taxonomy service to replace taxonomic publishing.
Can I just bring us back down to earth by pointing out three things?
1. The proposed amendment to the zoological Code
(which I hope gets approved) will only allow digital *publishing* in conjunction with registration. The ICZN isn't offering to replace publication with registration.
2. Taxonomic publication in journals has worked effectively for a very long time (not 100%, but nothing's perfect) to filter out poor and disruptive taxonomy from mainstream publications by means of peer review. If mainstream taxonomic publication is replaced by an online taxonomy service, peer review becomes one of the jobs of that service. If I remember correctly, Doug thought that wouldn't be a problem: somehow every taxonomist in the world would become a peer reviewer of every taxonomic action. I can't see that.
3. In the Web era there are thousands upon thousands of evanescent online communities available (in the crowdsourcing sense) to contribute to taxonomy. They can do this in many different ways, from transcribing herbarium labels to managing taxon-focused image libraries to improving the online resources used to identify specimens (which includes recognising new species). Democratising taxonomy on the Web is the best possible use of the Web for taxonomy. A centralised, online taxonomy service as implied in the TAXACOM discussions so far is simply a way to make the work of isolated experts more efficient. Terrific, but that isn't the same as making taxonomy more efficient. Under the 'experts do taxonomy' model, unless we vastly increase the number of 'experts' (and that isn't going to happen) we won't vastly increase taxonomic output. To do the latter we need to replace experts with large online communities.
Dr Robert Mesibov
Honorary Research Associate
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and
School of Zoology, University of Tasmania
Home contact: PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
(03) 64371195; 61 3 64371195
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