[Taxacom] e-only from Do rogue taxonomists need rogue publishers?

Stephen Thorpe s.thorpe at auckland.ac.nz
Wed Feb 10 18:34:32 CST 2010

Speaking again as one who is rather neutral on the e-only debate per se, it does seem to me that if there is one thing we can all agree on, it is that there is (as yet) no consensus on this issue! So, either the status quo must be maintained until a consensus can be reached, or else those with the loudest voices, biggest sticks and/or biggest wallets will win out, for better or for worse ...

From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Pat LaFollette [pat at lafollette.com]
Sent: Thursday, 11 February 2010 1:07 p.m.
To: Dean Pentcheff; taxacom
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] e-only from Do rogue taxonomists need rogue publishers?

Dear Dean and Doug,

I am impressed by the passion of your rants –
your rhetorical style would make a ‘60s radical
proud (I know, I was one) but I don’t think
erecting straw men, over-the-top hyperbole, or
insults will win many points with this audience.

“If we want to keep gumming over our precious
cotton-rag pages…” Wow!  I may be an old geezer,
but I still have all my teeth.  I chew my
cotton-rag pages….  And for the record, no one in
this thread has advocated paper-only or opposed electronic publication.

Cutting through to the meat of the issue, Dean wrote:
"Publications are kept in: (a) globally standard [de facto or de jure]
formats; and (b) on "live" storage on the net. They are continually
read and reread (and copied all over the place). Indexing requires
that they be machine-interpretable, so they are maintained that way
continually. Anything that doesn't "read" to the next generation
indexing routine gets migrated (in format) forward. That's not going
to stop. That is the qualitative change that makes digital data
readable in the future: it's no longer static."

I talked this over in some detail with Evgeniy
Meyke, (U. Helsinki and EarthCape) who is a lot
more knowledgeable than I about what exists and
what is possible in the present
computing/Internet world. All of the individual
pieces of what Dean mentions exist, but for this
specific application, the archiving of digitally
published taxonomic literature, the pieces have
yet to be integrated into a functional, with one possible exception.

In my opinion, the best candidate for doing this
– archiving and distributing of newly published
digital taxonomic works – is the Biodiversity
Heritage Library. They are already in the
business of archiving, indexing, and making
available digital images of the taxonomic
literature, and have the participation of a large
number of major biological libraries, if only in
the U. S. and England at present. They do not yet
have a procedure for accepting documents from
outside their normal workflow – digitizing and
indexing printed books from participating
libraries – but they are working on it and will
hopefully have one in the near future.  If there
is any other candidate for this role that is
on-topic, with an infrastructure in place, and
respected institutional support, I do not yet know of it.

Your arguments for abandoning paper publication
NOW seem a bit like Cortez burning his fleet to
“motivate” his men – a bit over-the-top for the
present situation.  In my opinion, paperless
publication of taxonomic works is entirely reasonable, just a little premature.

The economic arguments raise a lot of complex
issues that should be discussed in detail, but
separately.  The ease of publication argument
raises the question “who would be using it?” This
is a concern discussed at length in the “Rogue
Taxonomist” thread.  It seems unlikely that ease
of publication won’t suddenly increase the number
of working taxonomists or publishable
manuscripts.  If there is at present a
“publishing bottleneck” it needs to be
documented.  How many manuscripts? How long are
the delays?  The humanitarian, environmental, and
saving-the-world arguments are rather more
political and speculative than I care to address.

Pat LaFollette

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

Taxacom Mailing List
Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu

The Taxacom archive going back to 1992 may be searched with either of these methods:

(1) http://taxacom.markmail.org

Or (2) a Google search specified as:  site:mailman.nhm.ku.edu/pipermail/taxacom  your search terms here

More information about the Taxacom mailing list