[Taxacom] ICZN procedure question

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Fri Nov 12 11:24:47 CST 2010

Don't get me wrong -- I wasn't questioning the legitimacy of the concern for
long-term archival properties of electronic documents (I've expressed the
same concerns myself).  I was questioning the insinuation by Jim that only
one copy of an electronic publication would exist in a museum, which could
be obliterated if it were bombed.

Name-bearing type specimens are necessarily unique physical objects that can
only exist in one place, and hence have no redundancy.  My point to Jim was
that it's far more likely that the last surviving copy of a paper-printed
publication could be destroyed in a bombing than for the last copy of an
electronic publication.

There are plenty of legitimate reasons why people should be concerned about
the longevity of electronic documents.  The risk that the last copy will be
destroyed in a bombing of a Museum is not among them.

> Given that we have been flooded for decades with electronic 
> devices (each accompanied by grand marketing claims about 
> user-friendlines and universality) that in practice proved 
> not to work as advertised, or only for a while (until 
> bypassed by a next generation), and given an 
> ever-proliferating number of 'universal' standards (each 
> needing dedicated, and constantly to be updated, software) it 
> looks to me that a degree of caution is not a sign of madness?

A degree of caution is certainly NOT a sign of madness!  The notion that
paper copies are inherently more survivable because of potential for
geographically distributed redundancy is.

> I do not know if electronic publishing of scientific names is 
> going to happen (given that the Codes are retroactive, it is 
> possible that it already exists, for example if a future 
> change of the Codes determines that all electronic publishing from
> 1 January 2000 onwards is accepted as effective/available. 
> This is unlikely, but possible!)

It's only as likely as the community's demands for such a provision.  The
maintainers of all three major nomenclatural Codes are acutely aware that
the Codes exist to serve the needs of the end users.  What makes this
process difficult is the heterogeny of those needs, especially in the midst
of a technologically transformative period in our history (like now).

>, but the more discussions I 
> see on the topic, the more I get the feeling that the 
> immediate issue before us is formulating what exact 
> conditions and requirements these Official Permanent Paper 
> Copies will have to meet.

[Some examples of paper-printed archives of e-publications]

> are very untraditional: these are moving counter to the way 
> the Codes now tend to organize things. A more traditional 
> approach would be to formulate requirements as to number of 
> copies, where (and how) these are to be deposited, and who is 
> entitled to make such printed copies.

Well, the Codes do not currently make such stipulations for paper-based
copies; the zoo Code uses words like "numerous" and "durable", without
further qualification. So I'm not sure how "traditional" such requirements
would be.  But I take issue with your suggestion that the examples you
quoted run "counter" to this suggestion.  Two of the examples were authored
by me, and I was only introducing the concept in broad strokes. It had
always been my intention when formalizing the language of the Code, that
more stringent requirements for quality of printing and who, where, and how
the paper copies would be archived would be so stipulated -- making the
requirements more rigorous than they have been "traditionally".


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