[Taxacom] Important note Re: two names online published - one new species

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Thu Jan 28 14:56:21 CST 2016

> The Amendment was issued in order to appease an unstoppable worldwide
> shift to electronic publishing. The ICZN is worried that it may not survive if it
> doesn't change with the times and appease the majority of the taxonomic
> community.


> So, a protocol for electronic publication of new taxon names was, rather
> hastily it seems, put together. 

Well, if 4 years of public commentary can be described as "hasty".... sure.  I guess in geologic timescales, 4 years is effectively instantaneous.

> Lots of authors and publishers have
> subsequently been diligently preregistering articles on ZooBank, etc., for the
> sole purpose of making the online first versions available from the date that
> they are published online.

"Sole purpose" is overstated.  Many people have been registering retrospective content as well.  I would say the #1 reason people have registered content in ZooBank is because they support the idea. I agree that compliance with e-publication is another primary reason why stuff is getting registered in ZooBank but certainly not the "sole purpose". There are also Journals that explicitly do NOT want the electronic edition to be the available version. Some ensure this by failing to include LSIDs in the work itself, and others may ensure this by failing to include an online archive for the Journal in ZooBank (of course, nothing stops individual authors from self-archiving, and indicating such on an article-level basis in ZooBank).

> Problem: The Code states that preliminary versions published online cannot
> be made available, but fails to define "preliminary version"! 

YES!!!!  To me, that is a much bigger problem than the business about online first vs. paper first, etc.

> This is so despite
> the pleas of Commissioner Krell for clarification before the Amendment was
> issued! Curious ...

I'd have to go back and review the exchanges.  Certainly the issue of defining "preliminary version" was raised by multiple Commissioners, and by people in the public.  But I don't have a specific recollection of why there was no effort to add a definition of "preliminary version".  I do recall a conversation that effectively concluded that, per Art. 21.9, whichever version first fulfilled the requirements of availability would establish the date of publication.  But that still doesn't address what a "primiminary version" is.  Maybe people just hoped it would be self-evident from the publication itself what was preliminary, and what was not. I have kept all email related to the Amendment, so I could go review if I had time and inclination. However, I have neither at the moment.

> Several people (including John Noyes) object that unpaginated versions not
> yet assigned to volume/issue are preliminary versions, but many (most?)
> other people deny that these count as "preliminary versions". This
> uncertainty creates uncertainty as to the exact date that many works and
> new names became available (in the sense of the Code), which causes
> problems for citation and also determination of priority, and means that a lot
> of work spent on ZooBank preregistrations may in fact have been a waste of
> time!

Yup, that about sums it up (although, again "a lot" may be an overstatement).  And it's nice to see the conversation shifting towards this issue, which I think is the elephant in the room compared to the other stuff.

> The "metadata" solution represents an attempt, after the fact, to define
> "preliminary version" is such a way as to avoid the above problem. It does
> avoid the above problem, but to what extent is it actually written into the
> Code? Is it a plausible interpretation of the Code as written, or is it just
> something concocted to try to solve the problem post hoc, with no "official
> status"?

Yup, I'd agree with that assessment.

> The upshot of all this is that despite the attempts of the ICZN to appease the
> wider taxonomic community, they have failed to create a workable protocol
> for online first publication. 

That statement is pretty demonstrably false!  The vast majority of works published electronically do NOT suffer these problems.  The protocol is certainly "workable" in the sense that it "works" in the vast majority of cases. We all agree it's not perfect -- nobody ever thought it would be perfect.  Frankly, as I have said many times before, I thought it would be much LESS perfect than it has proven to be.  I am quite surprised how few actual problems we have.  But as should be clear by my long email below, I do not see a stable future in conflating nomenclatural availability (and the desire for stability) with the rapidly evolving realm of "publication".  It's time to move on to a new model that separates nomenclatural availability and priority from the whole publication process (except the extent to which ZooBank itself, as a registry, can be considered a form of publication).


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