[Taxacom] A simple solution?

Chris Freeland Chris.Freeland at mobot.org
Sun Nov 14 17:07:38 CST 2010

I've been reading through these various threads on electronic publications, and with some trepidation will throw out a few points from my experience as the technical director for the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

I agree with Stephen that the scope of work to build a system like Adam describes is quite large, but I also think that we can't let that stop us as a community.  Technology is making this problem easier to solve every day from a 'bits & bolts' standpoint.  The social & political issues about registration of e-publications are not so simple, and since I am no expert in the Codes I leave it at that and will instead comment on the tech side of things.

Within the Biodiversity Heritage Library we've been working to establish redundant nodes for the digitized volumes (currently 80,000+) made available through scanning operations.  RIght now that content is all sitting on servers in San Francisco run by the Internet Archive - a risky single point of failure.  To address this risk we've tested and built a hardware & software solution I like to describe as "Dropbox on steroids" that identifies & syncs content across shared repositories around the world.  We currently have a cluster in Woods Hole (at Marine Biological Laboratory, a BHL partner) that syncs content from Internet Archive and are in the process of establishing a node at NHM London for the BHL-Europe.  We have begun working with the Atlas of Living Australia & Museum Victoria to establish a node in Australia, the Bibliotecha Alexandrina to establish a node in Egypt, SciELO for the same in Brasil, and right this very minute I'm in Beijing working with the Institute of Botany-Chinese Academy of Sciences for a node in China.  For more information on these activities, check out the presentation that developers Phil Cryer (MOBOT) & Anthony Goddard (MBL) gave at TDWG on this topic: http://slidesha.re/dngMhG and an earlier version presented in London: http://slidesha.re/bO8WNE

So to try to wrap this up: BHL, as a global collaboration of like-minded organizations, is working to devise technologies that do the infrastructure side of the simple solution that Adam outlines.  I can say from our experience it has not been easy and we are certainly far from done, but we've been successful in demonstrating that it *can* be done - we can maintain multiple international nodes that share & sync content.  Woohoo!  We've had a LOT of interest in our solution from multiple domains because everyone who runs a digital archive worries about redundancy & resilience - our community is not alone here.  I would hope that the ongoing discussions on this list can keep working on the policy & social issues around electronic publications because those are the pieces that are unique to our community. 

Let the flogging begin,

Chris Freeland
Director, Center for Biodiversity Informatics, Missouri Botanical Garden
Tech Director, Biodiversity Heritage Library

-----Original Message-----
From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu on behalf of Stephen Thorpe
Sent: Sun 11/14/2010 3:45 PM
To: Adam Cotton
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] A simple solution?
I don't think that you fully grasp (1) the sheer volume of work required to 
implement this, given that even just Zootaxa, for example, publishes new taxa 5 
days a week; and (2) the need to have MULTIPLE e-copies archived in different 
places, in case disaster should strike the ICZN computer system.

From: Adam Cotton <adamcot at cscoms.com>
To: ICZN List <iczn-list at afriherp.org>
Sent: Mon, 15 November, 2010 10:32:04 AM
Subject: [Taxacom] A simple solution?

I have been following the convoluted arguments on both listserves, and would 
like to offer a suggestion that keeps things simple, and allows both 
traditional 'paper' publishing as well as e-publishing.

It seems that most of us agree that doing nothing is not an option if the 
ICZN (substitute ICBN nearly anywhere in this post) is to remain relevant to 
the taxonomic world as a whole.

We also agree that the current Article 8.6 in the ICZN Code is not 
satisfactorary, as it is already out of date with technology.

Rather than a separate organisation being set up as an e-publication Bank 
per se at this time, why not mandate that a copy (in the same format as the 
original) of any electronic publication must be sent to the 'Registrar' at 
the ICZN at the time of publication (to arrive within a specified time 
period, perhaps 1 month, to allow for the possibility that it must be sent 
by snailmail), rather than the current "deposited in at least 5 major 
publicly accessible libraries which are identified by name in the work 
itself", which does not clearly define the quality of library considered or 
not considered 'major'. The Registrar would then add the nomenclatorial 
information to the bottom of a page in the ICZN website, so the whole World 
can see that eg. xxx new name has been published with the reference to the 
e-publication listed. This would prevent problems of validity of 
publication, at the same time as disseminating the basic information 
(nomenclatorial act & reference) to the taxonomists who need to know about 
it. At the same time there would be no question over priority of 
e-publications, or between e- and paper publications, as the publication 
date would be included in the information on the website.

This could be set up with relatively little extra funding, and once 
established, over time it would be relatively easy to find sources of new 
funding to expand the project into a repository of ALL new nomenclatorial 
acts (with a change mandating that paper publications must also be sent to 
the Registrar) at a later stage.

The ICZN Registry webpage could also include a link to download the e-paper 
from the ICZN's server (providing open access). However it may be necessary 
to implement this at a later time, when  the ICZN server is able to both 
store and provide online access to a large amount of data and users. 
Probably this would be dependent on increased funding generated by the first 
phase of the project.

Adam Cotton. 


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