[Taxacom] FW: ICZN procedure question

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Fri Nov 12 20:13:55 CST 2010

Stephen Thorpe asked:

>  >The vision for Zoobank (and MycoBank) is that the *registry* is electronic
>(a database
>and what happens if the electronics go wrong?

We are not talking about a Mac in someone's basement. If you went to 
the people running GenBank and asked that same question, they would 
laugh you out of the building.

As of 15 October 2010, GenBank has data on 118,551,641,086 bases, 
from 125,764,384 reported sequences. Aside from personal printouts 
that might have been made by contributors, NONE OF IT EXISTS IN HARD 
COPY. And all those billions of dollars worth of research are not at 
risk of electronics going wrong, except in the face of a 
planet-ending catastrophe. If civilization is still here in 500 
years, then every one of those sequences in GenBank today will still 
be here. Protecting digital resources is not difficult, and not 
something to lose sleep over, and no one *needs* to have anything in 
hard copy ever again.

"Well, GenBank has more financial resources than ZooBank! We can't 
afford that kind of data security!"

That, my friends, is called a vicious circle. The reason GenBank has 
more financial resources is because the ENTIRE genetics community 
bought into it, almost 30 years ago. They had the foresight and 
wisdom to realize that a single central archive was far better than a 
thousand different researchers each trying to maintain their own, 
private sequence libraries, with all of them fighting one another for 
funding to do so. If the taxonomic community did the same and 
unanimously bought into ONE central nomenclatural archive, then this 
debate would vanish (to use Douglas Adams' phrase) "in a puff of 

If we could learn to speak with one voice, then we, too, could have a 
resource that - like GenBank - will never become obsolete, and never 
want for funding. We're 30 years behind the times, and still 
squabbling. It saddens me profoundly every time this topic comes up.


Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314        skype: dyanega
phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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