[Taxacom] ICZN procedure question

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Thu Nov 11 22:01:24 CST 2010

> Surely the precautionary principle would suggest we do both 
> as part of a considered transition? I would most happy if it 
> was a 'mandatory both' - paper AND electronic to show we are 
> serious about embracing the technology and serious about what 
> we are creating as legacy for the next 250 years (decades).

So, you mean that a nomenclatural Act would not be legitimate under it's
respective Code until the publication instance in which it occurred existed
in *both* paper *and* electronic form?  Books too?  What happens when they
are not produced and made available at the same time?  Which date applies
for purposes of priority?  What happens if the content is not identical
between the paper form and electronic form?

At least with the status quo, the opportunity for having both concurrently
exists (and is done regularly by journals like Zootaxa and Zookeys, as well
as others), but because only one constitutes the actual "Act", there is no
confusion or ambiguity in terms of content or dates.

My inclination would be to allow either, but in the case of e-only,
introduce some additional requirements to help mitigate the long-term legacy
bit (e.g., require registration of the Code-relevant bits of e-only pubs,
then produce archival paper copies of the registry on a routine basis).

I will refer to the trusty "bear in the woods" joke, to once again remind us
of the context of this conversation:

Two guys are walking in the woods, and a huge bear starts charging them.
The first guy starts to panic, while the second guy sits down and starts
putting his running shoes on.  The first guy says, "Are you crazy? You'll
never out-run that bear!"  The second guy says, "I don't have to out-run the
bear. I only have to out-run YOU."

This joke comes up again and again in all of my fields of endeavor.  The
point is this: an e-only publication system does NOT have to be perfect.  It
only needs to be as good or better than the alternative.

As Stephen already pointed out, the bot and zoo Codes currently allow for
any old sod to whip out an un-peer-reviewed document on a laser printer
using the cheapest paper available and a recycled cheap toner cartridge,
then make at least two copies available for sale or purchase; and Viola! A
code-compliant publication!

The bar is already pretty low (i.e., the First guy in the bear joke has two
broken legs as it is).

Doug and I have been discussing this for a long time (over a decade now, I
think), and he raises a valid point that though the bar is currently low,
most people in the "oldSod" class don't realize this; and hence don't
(often) abuse the system (yes, I know, there are notable abusers, and they
wreak havoc within their context; but overall this is not a widespread

This is an example of what IT people have described to me as "security
through obscurity".  It works, but only tenuously so.

So the alternative is to leverage the "desire" by members of the community
for the option to e-published Code-governed acts, to get them to agree to
raise the bar a bit and patch up the holes and loopholes that currently

Of course, there are those who maintain (legitimately) that those holes and
loopholes serve and important, and perhaps even intentional purpose; and
therefore should not be closed.

As a taxonomist, I am a strong supporter of moving towards e-publication and
e-distribution of e-published information -- for all the obvious reasons.  I
agree that paper-based information archiving has a much longer track record,
but it's certainly not infallible. And I believe that, short of a the
complete collapse of civilization (or at least the loss of affordable
electricity), electronic archiving techniques will only continue to improve
over time. The technology we have today doesn't have to last forever, it
only needs to last long enough to be transferred to the next-generation
electronic archive technology.  And anything that anyone with access to a
computer uses WILL get transferred.

However, as an ICZN Commissioner, I am a supporter of whatever solution best
meets the needs of the constituents of ICZN -- regardless of whether that
solution is congruent with my own personal needs/desires as a taxonomist.


Richard L. Pyle, PhD
Database Coordinator for Natural Sciences
Associate Zoologist in Ichthyology
Dive Safety Officer
Department of Natural Sciences, Bishop Museum
1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI 96817
Ph: (808)848-4115, Fax: (808)847-8252
email: deepreef at bishopmuseum.org

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