[Taxacom] Nomenclatural availability of preliminary electronic versions of taxonomic papers

Frank T. Krell Frank.Krell at dmns.org
Sat Oct 17 02:05:25 CDT 2015

Mike Ivie wrote: "Tweaking the existing Code and system of publication/priority and typification is not going to work, it will increase instead of decreasing complexity."
This is a bold and unfounded statement. Why are publication and typification not going to work? Of course they will continue to work, and the Code will continue to evolve to regulate evolving practices.
The scientific paper as predominant means of scientific communication is very much alive. In disciplines where it is not predominant, such as in part of the humanities, another form of scholarly communication is very much alive: the book. The need of immutable documents is felt and demanded way beyond nomenclature. That's why we have the "version of record" in academic publishing, the immutable archival documentation of scientific achievement that can be cited with confidence (as opposed to volatile web-postings, ever changing databases, soon dead URLs. Something may replace the "paper" at some point, but it will survive for quite some time, and there will always be the need of a "version of record" of some sort.
In terms of publication, we are in a transitional period in which the only "real" problem between the early online publication and the version integrated into a journal issue are the page numbers. This might be a big deal for cataloguers, but it is a temporary problem (as long as the need for journal issues is felt) and can easily be dealt with by minor regulations. The regulation of this issue is no big deal.

The Code has always been striving (with a rather conservative approach though) to adapt to developments in zoological sciences and scientific communication. I would strongly oppose calling this "patches and band-aids". This is not true. The Code has evolved, has been working well, and still does. In these times, it needs more examples and explanations to be widely understood and correctly applied. And it needs wordsmithing to avoid equivocal interpretation. Ideally no interpretation should be possible, but as with all legal texts, there will always be some interpretation and leeway. Our language is not precise enough, and if we make it more precise, then we end up in complex legalese that nobody understands anymore. More examples and explanations will go a long way to make the Code easier.

I agree with Rich that a re-organization of the Code would be advantageous: A short and precise first part how to establish new names (so that everybody can easily check what needs to be done when describing a new taxon), and a revised and extended (with examples and explanations) second part dealing with our legacy. This first part does not need to move away from the publication + registration = available model. A divorce of the nomenclaturally relevant document(ation) from the published scientific content is dangerous and unnecessary. We are not facing a nomenclatural doomsday that calls for revolutionary experiments. We are just living in  a time with rapid changes in the way we communicate and of opportunities how to present our science.
The next edition of the Code will not perfectly, but successfully deal with it, as former editions of the Code did in their time. It will be a lot of work and suggestions from the taxonomic community, but I am confident that we will end up with a better Code than before.


Dr. Frank-T. Krell, Chair, ZooBank Committee
Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
Curator of Entomology
Department of Zoology 
Denver Museum of Nature & Science 
2001 Colorado Boulevard 
Denver, CO 80205-5798 USA 
Frank.Krell at dmns.org 
Phone: (+1) (303) 370-8244 
Fax: (+1) (303) 331-6492 
lab page: http://www.dmns.org/krell-lab

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