[Taxacom] Sorry, but you are out-of-line

gerarus at westnet.com.au gerarus at westnet.com.au
Tue Nov 16 03:11:50 CST 2010

Doug Yanega has stated that he is not overly concerned about changes in format in digital archiving (if I've misrepresented him, my sincere apologies). What I'm surprised he didn't mention is that, if e-publishing becomes officially acceptable (as opposed to unofficially acceptable, which is the stage we're already in), we will _have_ to get used to at least some degree of format change. After all, digital publications will allow for certain features (such as embedded video) that simply cannot be reproduced in printed form in exactly the same format.

Somebody has already referred to the possibility of only the nomenclaturally significant parts of a publication being required, and received some strong protests to that point. But this is something that has _already_ become perfectly standard. More and more journals have embraced the publication of online-only supplementary info. The stuff in these online supplements is not simply irrelevant to the paper-published section of the publication, but their preservation is not currently mandated for the publication to be Code-compliant. (And while I'm referring to supplementary info, does anyone remember a paper that appeared last year in _Science_ describing six new species of fossil scorpionflies [http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1178338], not in the paper-published section but in the supplementary info? As a result, not valid by current ICZN regulations. But most non-taxonomists would simply see that it was published in _Science_ without noting the niceties of format!)

The problem of loss is also not unique to electronic publications, as some have already aluded to. Some older paper publications have become increasingly difficult to locate, and we may soon be reaching a time (if, indeed, we are not already there) when no surviving copies of those publications exist. Is the name(s) affected supposed to just lapse into invalidity at that point, potentially wrecking years of taxonomic continuity? We already have neotypes in taxonomy, so why couldn't we have neo-descriptions? If the original description is no longer available, but the name(s) published has been accepted into the wider literature (if names have not been accepted into the wider literature, then the loss of the original publication can have little long term effects), we could potential propose that a later re-description be accepted as standing in for the original, with the name retaining its original priority. One difference that I would suggest with neotype designation, however, is that this should potentially only be done through a Decision by the relevant Commission, to prevent the process being invoked lightly. Possibilities of the later re-description differing from the original would only be a problem to the degree that it is possible for a neotype to differ from the original holotype, and the current procedures for dealing with such situations should be more than adequate in potential conflicts.


        Christopher Taylor

Christopher Taylor
Dept of Environment and Agriculture
Curtin University
WA 6845


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