[Taxacom] Re; Do rogue taxonomists need rogue publishers?

Pat LaFollette pat at lafollette.com
Wed Feb 10 12:53:50 CST 2010

At 01:29 PM 2/9/2010, Stephen Thorpe wrote:
>Hi Pat,
> >It is not an archival medium that meets the requirement for a 
> permanent scientific record

>  deposition of a PDF into the Creative Commons might be considered 
> "permanent enough"?

The overwhelming benefits provided by digital access to the taxonomic 
literature are not in question. I just think electronic publishing 
should first establish a track record for document longevity / 
forward operability before it is adopted for the "permanent 
scientific record".  I spent several years recovering data and book 
texts from obsolete media, file and content formats. It was an object 
lesson in "backward comparability" and the amount of effort and 
knowledge required to move digital content forward through time.  But 
its not just the ability to convert formats, which is easy if done in 
a timely fashion.  Someone (agency, organization, authority) must be 
responsible in perpetuity for making sure that it actually 
happens.  Creative Commons may do this - I don't know - but I did not 
see such issues discussed on their site.

>Realistically, the power of the dollar is going to decide the 
>outcome here - not scientific/rational reasoning.

I am not normally a conspiracy theorist, but I am very troubled by 
libraries not being able to buy books or journal subscriptions 
outright.  Commercial e-only publishers create a situation where 
libraries might only be able to "rent" access to content year by year 
in order to provide it to their patrons.  It's a whole different 
business model filled with possibilities for abusive practices.  I 
wouldn't want to see the systematic literature caught up in it.

>From: Pat LaFollette [pat at lafollette.com]
>Sent: Tuesday, 9 February 2010 8:09 p.m.
>To: Bob Mesibov; Stephen Thorpe
>Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Re;  Do rogue taxonomists need rogue publishers?
>Dear All,
>E-only taxonomic publication has been a recurring topic in this
>thread, but the most important issue concerning e-only has not been
>mentioned: It is not an archival medium that meets the requirement
>for a permanent scientific record.
>So far as I have been able to discover, no form of electronic record
>is accepted as permanent by governments, business, or law.  (Apart
>from paper, only microfilm is acceptable in some cases.)  If e-only
>is not considered suitable for laws, vital records, deeds, business
>contracts, or any other record that law requires be preserved for
>more than a few (3 to 7) years, how can systematic biology find it
>acceptable for the permanent taxonomic record?
>Our libraries are full of 100 year old and older taxonomic works. We
>have a reasonable and justified expectation that they will still be
>there in another 100 years.  What reasonable assurance is there that
>an e-only work "published" today will still be preserved (and
>readable) in 100 years? The track record, thus far, for long term
>preservation of important digital records (from the early years of
>the U. S. space program, for example) has been abysmal.  It would be
>reasonable for systematic biology to reconsider the issue when
>electronic records are widely accepted as appropriate and safe for
>archival purposes.  E + paper taxonomic publication, on the other
>hand, has all the advantages of electronic documents while assuring a
>permanent record.
>Any publication method can be (and has been) abused.  If the
>publications of "rogue taxonomists" were ever to rise above the level
>of petty annoyance, the Commission can be petitioned to suppress the
>offending work(s) or act(s) on a case by case basis.  It is not
>reasonable to allow a small handful of individuals, however onerous,
>to influence how taxonomic works are published or who can write them.
>Patrick LaFollette
>At 04:52 PM 2/8/2010, Bob Mesibov wrote:
> >OK, let me be clearer:
> >
> >(1) e-only taxonomic publication will be much easier than print or
> >e+print, and will allow a much greater volume of taxonomic work to
> >be produced more quickly. The second point is one of the benefits
> >which has been promoted by e-only enthusiasts as a 'widening of the
> >bottleneck' currently restricting our efforts to document the
> >world's biodiversity. The fact that junk taxonomy can appear now,
> >before e-only availability happens, isn't the point. The point is
> >that without controls on e-only, vastly *more* junk taxonomy can
> >appear, and appear faster. Will it be in proportion to the hoped-for
> >increase in non-junk taxonomy? That's a conservative position, but
> >even that's a disaster, because it's the *absolute* number of
> >taxonomic entities we specialists will have to deal with, and I for
> >one don't need that much more work.
> >
> >(2) Hawkeswood's and Makhan's attitudes are relevant because the two
> >of them are sociopathic in exactly the same way spammers, botmasters
> >and other delinquents are sociopathic. You don't produce good
> >taxonomy by thinking the taxonomic establishment is a bunch of snobs
> >and by God, you'll show them! You produce a heap of junk in which
> >disinterested, honest compilers like Stephen Thorpe and specialists
> >might possibly find something worthwhile. You clearly want to judge
> >taxonomic work on its merits. Well, that's what specialists do:
> >judge merit. And this specialist wants to stop Makhan and Hawkeswood
> >before they trade in their single-shooter for a high-powered
> >automatic with a huge magazine.
> >--
> >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
> >Website: http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/mesibov.html
> >
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>Patrick I LaFollette
>Research Associate in Malacology
>Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
>pat at lafollette.com

Patrick I LaFollette
Research Associate in Malacology
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
pat at lafollette.com 

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