[Taxacom] Article 8 compliance

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Wed Apr 12 09:24:08 CDT 2017

Hi John,

> I would have to disagree. The system I use at the moment is dead simple and one
> that most people can cope with. What you are advocating would be far too
> complex for the average taxonomist to maintain. Like I have said previously,
> keeping things simple is a lot, lot better. It really is not a problem to obtain
> relevant information from PDFs - that is a bit of a red herring.

OK, I guess in this case we're both right.  Here's what I mean:  Right NOW, it is definitely "simpler" for most taxonomists to go through PDF files and assemble the nomenclatural acts/etc. into a database, because taxonomists are familiar with reading and interpreting PDFs and are generally not database developers.  Fair enough.  But the context *I* am talking about is a system that doesn't yet exist, but if it DID exist, I am absolutely certain I could convince you that the task of assembling nomenclatural acts into any taxonomic database would be VASTLY easier.  It all boils down to the user interface.  At the current state of existing software and taxonomist capabilities, copying and pasting selected information out of a PDF and into a database is easy, and writing SQL is hard.  But if we built the system I'm talking about (part of the $1.5M development costs), copying and pasting information from a PDF into a database would seem absolutely tedious by comparison.

> > However, the increased
> > logistical problems associated with ZooBank registration and
> > maintaining an up to date taxonomic catalogue are quite serious.
> >>>>>>>Again, the opposite is true.  This applies to the status quo, and would
> likewise apply under your proposal for treating PDFs just like paper publications.
> The system I propose is by far the superior solution to maintaining an up-to-date
> taxonomic catalogue.  In fact, that's one of the primary virtues of the system I
> propose over and above the existing paradigm.
> I really do not see that and I am definitely not convinced what you are saying is
> true. What you are advocating looks fantastically complex and would require a
> huge amount of funding to implement. As I said above, my system is simple,
> takes very little time and we know it works. I would like to see a working model
> of what you suggest before we take the plunge. It is all very nice in theory . . . .

The process by which all the 1's and 0's that are included in a PDF binary file are magically transcribed into familiar formatted black text on a white background on your computer screen is fantastically complex.  But you don't need to worry about that, because this complexity is hidden from you.  The "user interface" of a PDF file masks the complexity of what's going on behind the scenes, and allows you relatively easy access to the information.

In exactly the same way, the system I am proposing (which does not yet exist, so I can't point to it yet) would hide all the "fantastical" complexity, and provide the user with a very simple interface that would make reading a PDF and extracting information from it seem cumbersome by comparison.

We absolutely agree on one thing:  there is no way that the community would (or should) accept the proposal for "registered=available" without a functional working version of it to evaluate.  The current ZooBank existed for more than 4 years before the Code incorporated it through the Amendment for electronic publication.  Likewise, the new system I describe would need to exist in a functional form for at least a year or two for proper evaluation before the Code itself embraces it as the foundation for new nomenclatural acts.

The good news is that I am currently on coffee break at a meeting where the foundations of the infrastructure I'm talking about are very-much on the table, and will likely be developed in the next couple of years.  In other words, it's already starting, even without any new grant funding. If the grant proposal we intend to submit is funded, then we'll be well on our way to a  robust functional system that everyone can evaluate well before the 5th Edition of the Code takes effect.


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