[Taxacom] Electronic publication

Thomas Pape tpape at snm.ku.dk
Tue Jan 10 08:10:44 CST 2017

The combined production of taxonomy and nomenclature in scientific works ever since Systema Naturae means that many people have difficulties envisioning these as possibly being produced separately (at least in part). 

Managing more nomenclature directly in an online registry (e.g., an expanded ZooBank) would have some important advantages like instantaneous global availability, exact dating, prevention of primary homonymy, confirmed [intended] type depository, and unambiguous original spelling. It would also help people to understand better the distinction between nomenclature as an implementation of legislation, and taxonomy as a scientific activity. 

Still, quality matters, certainly also for nomenclature, and most publishers exert some quality check on the content in the publications they oversee, e.g., through peer review. An official registry could still have various measures built in that would help increase 'qualified' nomenclatural decisions, but it is difficult to provide satisfying, sustainable solutions with limited resources.

This is all very interesting, and the ICZN is (pro-)actively looking into the various possibilities. 

/Thomas Pape

-----Original Message-----
From: Taxacom [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Richard Pyle
Sent: 10. januar 2017 02:41
To: 'Stephen Thorpe'; 'Hinrich Kaiser'; 'Scott Thomson'
Cc: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Electronic publication

> Well, the slight potential problem with that idea, or so it seems to 
> me, is that either an accompanying publication is necessary for new 
> name availability or not.

According to the idea as I outlined it: not.

> If not, then why would publishers bother to publish descriptions of 
> new taxa that are already made available by other means?

Because the vast majority of all scientific descriptions of new taxa are about the science of taxonomy, not about the legal Code requirements.  Only a tiny minority of the text in scientific descriptions is necessary to confer Code compliance.  Publishers publish new species descriptions because they represent important science.  Peer reviewers review the papers on the scientific basis.  Publishers should require that descriptions of new taxa include references to the registration of the new names (in much the same way that publishers often require citation of GenBank Accession numbers when gene sequences are cited).

Any publisher that would fail to publish an article describing the scientific aspects of a new taxon simply because the publication itself was no longer required by the ICZN Code, would absolutely NOT be worth publishing in anyway.  Such a perspective would represent a gross misunderstanding of the respective roles of science and the Code in the realm of taxonomy.

> What happens if a new name is made available "entirely within the 
> registration system", but for some reason it doesn't also get published?

In what way is this different from a self-published manuscript that minimally contains the information necessary to establish a new name in the sense of the existing Code?  (other than the fact that the registration record would be easily discoverable, but the self-published MS would not).

Nothing is stopping anyone from doing exactly what I described, except in the form of an obscure self-published work, rather than controlled and publicly visible registration system.  Yet, it rarely happens, because the vast majority of taxonomists care about their scientific reputations.  Such reputations are built on providing quality science according to scientific publication standards.  This would not change.

We cling to "publication" in the context of establishing new scientific names as if it somehow represents some form of quality control; when of course we all know or at least SHOULD know) that it does not (anyone who thinks it does, either doesn't understand how what the Code requirements actually are, or doesn't understand the divers nature of "publication" in its modern form).


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