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

Stephen Gaimari SGaimari at cdfa.ca.gov
Tue Nov 16 15:48:31 CST 2010

Doug Yanega wrote:

>What this argument appears to boil down to, then, is that you imagine 
>that every single electronic document in every field of science - 
>actually in every field of ANYTHING, from governments to banks to 
>multimillion-dollar corporations - might be irretrievably lost to our 
>descendants unless it is printed on paper. The implication is that no 
>one, anywhere will bother to figure out a way to preseve electronic 
>documents and migrate them to new standards when they are developed, 
>because no one besides taxonomists ever reads anything published more 
>than 100 years in the past? We are NOT the only people who want to 
>read old documents. I imagine that virtually any academic anywhere in 
>the world would be amazed at the claim that none of them ever need to 
>examine old books or journals, and that taxonomists are unique in 
>their requirements to have access to original publications.

Nope - nothing of the sort. Data will persist as the need is present -
banks will continually upgrade their systems and migrate their data, as
will governments, corporations, etc. They will use different formats as
necessary, or entirely different systems as they get better and better.
However, what is critical in those systems is the information content,
which is not the same as the original source document. If there is a
need for a document (in any of these fields) to live into perpetuity,
where the *actual* document needs to be consulted in 200 years (not just
the information contained in it), paper is the only guaranteed and
proven medium for that original document. Maybe the future will bring a
different outlook on this, but for this moment in time, in considering
changes to the current code, e-only just is not proven enough to satisfy
the needs of taxonomic nomenclature for the unforeseeable future.

Mike Taylor wrote:
>I think this is an over-simplistic view.  A hundred and sixty years
ago, it >was standard to use imperial measurements in scientific papers,
so that >Gideon Mantell's (1850) description of the Pelorosaurus
conybeari says that >it is "4+1/2 feet long and 32 inches in
circumference at the distal >extremity".  Just as the archiving standard
may in future change from >PDF/A, so the measurement standard has since
changed from Imperial.  But >that change has not entailed any loss of
information in old papers, since >it is well understood how to convert
from imperial to metric, yielding a >length of 137 cm and a distal
circumference of 81 cm.  And in the same way, >if we eventually find
ourselves preferring a different archival format from >PDF/A, then it
will be well understood how to convert to that format.

This is the same argument as the meter stick - calculations aren't
original documents - irrelevant, so I won't repeat it here.

Mike Taylor wrote:
>There are NO circumstances under which the world could lose the ability
to >read PDF/A documents.  None that don't entail far worse

Well, I guess you know something I don't. I understand that PDF/A is an
ISO Standard for using PDF format for the long-term archiving of
electronic documents. However, ISO Standards are not even permanent.
There is a process to place a set of data into the ISO protocol for
approval and at periodic intervals, these standards are reviewed and
updated or deleted. Also, this is not even a settled-upon format for
scientific papers in general - see
-workshop/ - this is just a young field, and there has not been enough
dust settled to even assume that things will work as you, or Doug,


Dr. Stephen D. Gaimari
Program Supervisor (Entomology)
Plant Pest Diagnostics Center
California Department of Food and Agriculture
3294 Meadowview Road
Sacramento, CA 95832, USA
Tel. 916-262-1131, Fax 916-262-1190
E-mail sgaimari at cdfa.ca.gov

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