[Taxacom] FW: ICZN procedure question

Don.Colless at csiro.au Don.Colless at csiro.au
Fri Nov 12 23:19:06 CST 2010

Since about 1967 I have danced from system or medium or format to system or medium or format, to preserve my library of programmes - usually successfully, with only inconsequential failures. Now I can no longer run those programmes due to a changed system; but, being long retired, I no longer care. My experience, however, makes me very wary of entrusting crucial information of any kind, but especially taxonomic, to e-text alone. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? 

Donald H. Colless
CSIRO Div of Ecosystem Sciences
GPO Box 1700
Canberra 2601
don.colless at csiro.au
tuz li munz est miens envirun
From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Doug Yanega [dyanega at ucr.edu]
Sent: 13 November 2010 13:13
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] FW:  ICZN procedure question

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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