[Taxacom] Pre-submission peer-review and online import of specimen records from BOLD

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Tue Sep 22 14:31:52 CDT 2015

On 9/22/15 11:06 AM, Dan Lahr wrote:
> Full support to this initiative from my part.  Working on a group with 
> relatively few experts, it is fairly obvious and easy to realize who 
> is reviewing your taxonomic paper.
> My only concern at this point would be one of implementation --  how 
> could traditional journals implement the ARPHA or a similar system 
> seamlessly?
I assume the question was directed at me rather than Lyubo - if not, he 
can offer his perspective independently.

My perspective is that we need to dump traditional print journals. 
Before everyone jumps down my throat, ask yourself what it is that 
traditional journals offer that you could never get from publishing 
online. The answer, objectively, is nothing. I can imagine a chorus of 
responses along the lines of "But my specialist journal allows me to get 
my specialized paper published in such a way that it gets reviewed by 
like-minded specialists, and is read by like-minded specialists, without 
having to compete with other papers on more popular or generalized 
topics!" - but that is a spurious claim. An online publication model 
means there are no page limits, no limits to how many papers can be 
published, so there is no competition for space; an open review model 
means that the EXACT SAME PEOPLE who presently review your specialist 
papers can still review them (but now there are EXTRA reviewers 
available that would not have been in your traditional journal); because 
it's online, the EXACT SAME PEOPLE who presently *read* your specialist 
papers can still read them, thanks to Google (but now there are EXTRA 
readers seeing your work that would never have bothered to read your 
traditional journal). If the argument is that the thing that sets these 
journals apart is their editorial staff, whose specialized expertise 
makes them uniquely suited to ensure quality control in others' works, 
that's spurious exactly as noted above - all of those editors would be 
free to engage in the review process of every paper they see fit to, and 
it shouldn't make a difference if they are no longer *personally 
responsible* for the final decision as to when something is ready to be 
published; if their opinion is that something is or is not ready, then 
their argumentation should be persuasive in a public forum just as well 
as in an echo chamber.

If you run a professional society whose sole source of revenue is from 
printing a journal, and virtually all of whose dues are spent to make 
that publication happen, then having a new publication model would let 
you re-think the focus of your society; you could cut your dues and 
still accomplish more (like holding meetings or making small grants), 
once the massive expense of printing the journal has been eliminated. 
After all, every one of those works you are presently paying to print 
could be done online, and still have the same editors, reviewers, and 
readership, as noted above.

I would also submit that works should either be deemed publishable or 
not, rather than being assessed on some purely subjective scale of 
quality, where only those ranked highest make it into print. Abandoning 
traditional print journals and going for a model of online public review 
would have nothing but positive consequences for the taxonomic 
community. The only people I can see being unhappy with this are the 
people who publish and profit from print journals, and the bottom line 
to me is this: do they exist to serve taxonomists, or do taxonomists 
exist to serve them? If we insist upon a different publication model, 
then we'll be served by a different kind of publisher.


Doug Yanega      Dept. of Entomology       Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314     skype: dyanega
phone: (951) 827-4315 (disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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