[Taxacom] e-publishing and the "taxonomic impediment"

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Tue Sep 4 20:44:30 CDT 2012

Hello Taxacomers,
I am at a bit of a loss to know how the advent of e-only publication in zoology is supposed to help reduce the "taxonomic impediment", despite the apparent claims by the ICZN that it will help to do so, and, indeed, they make this sound like the primary motivation, with just one or two commentators making brief note of the fact that it may also be a little bit good economically for publishers (i.e., "the paper impediment to (profitable) publishing"). So, what is the so-called "taxonomic impediment"? As I understand it, it refers to difficulties for doing certain sorts of biology (e.g. conservation, ecology, etc.) due to the fact that so many species are still so poorly documented or undocumented (i.e. undescribed/unidentifiable) taxonomically. If this is what it is, then the implicit claim being made in support of e-only publishing in zoology is that with paper out of the way, the way is clear for a significant increase in the rate of new species
 descriptions and/or taxonomic revisions. The problem, as I see it, with this claim, is that I don't think it will make the slightest bit of difference to the rate of description/revision. I don't think it will make any real difference at all to taxonomists, only to publishers. The rate of taxonomy is not limited, I suggest, by the rate at which publishers can churn out hard copy. Rather, it is limited by several other factors, such as the amount of funding available for taxonomy, the number of active taxonomists (these things are probably linked), etc.

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