[Taxacom] "Taxon Filter" (was Re: Electronic publication)

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Wed Jan 11 12:55:11 CST 2017

For the record, the "Taxon Filter" concept is one that Hinrich largely 
borrowed from a model I have been proposing for some time now, and he 
and I had extensive discussions prior to his adopting that name. There 
is a very important aspect of the process which does not seem to have 
been clearly explained, and I think it is highly relevant to several of 
the issues raised in this present thread. Allow me to give a 
hypothetical example to illustrate:

Suppose author X wants to describe a new species of bumblebee (the genus 
Bombus, family Apidae, order Hymenoptera, class Insecta). They have 
three female specimens, from two localities in Mexico.

Under the status quo, they submit a manuscript to journal Y and it is 
seen by three anonymous referees plus a subject editor before being 
accepted, with minor revision, and published. Under the status quo, it 
is ALSO possible that one of the referees (let's call them Z) might 
realize "Oh, I have some specimens of this new species myself!" and they 
could quickly publish their OWN description, and "scoop" author X, 
usurping their discovery. Author X is furious, but cannot prove that Z 
was one of the referees, because they are shielded by anonymity.

Under the model that I and Hinrich have been advocating (at least my 
version of which is NOT a "minimal requirements" model), this would be 
quite different.

Author X would submit their manuscript (in my model, the *whole* thing) 
to THE single official venue - most likely ZooBank - that acts as a 
registration portal for all new nomenclatural acts. The instant it is 
submitted there, an automated message goes out to every taxonomist who 
is a registered user of that venue AND who has self-selected any of the 
following key words: Bombus, Apidae, Hymenoptera, Insecta, Mexico, "new 
species" (among others). Instead of just 3 anonymous referees, the 
manuscript is thereby opened to review online by *hundreds* of people, 
including the majority of the world's experts on bumblebees. If a person 
like Z is among the reviewers, they CANNOT do anything to usurp the 
taxon as their own, because now there is ONLY ONE VENUE. They would have 
to submit their manuscript for registration to the *same* place, and 
have it seen by the *same* reviewers, as author X - and *including* 
author X! It would be immediately obvious that the two works referred to 
the same taxon, and since author X had submitted first, their 
registration could still be approved, but Z's would definitely be 
rejected. The BEST scenario that Z could hope for here is that X would 
agree to add them as a co-author. In fact, that could turn what might 
otherwise have been a bitter rivalry into a cooperative, win-win 
venture. Especially if author Z had specimens from different localities, 
or male specimens to help better characterize the new species. For that 
matter, ANY of the hundreds of reviewers might have additional specimens 
or data that they could contribute (with or without co-authorship), and 
the resulting species description could be *vastly* improved over the 
one produced under the traditional publishing model. Open review makes a 
level of collaboration possible that is NOT part of the present 
competitive publishing model. So, we'd see not only a BETTER end 
product, but one that is immune to being usurped, and - once registered 
- can be submitted for publication wherever the author wishes, and it 
won't make a difference how long it actually takes to get into print, 
because the date of registration (and availability) of the name is 
*already established* and NOT dependent on the date of printing.

That last clause is EXTREMELY significant in regards to the present 
debate over dating, pre-prints, digital versus paper, and such: if the 
date a name becomes *available* is the date it is *registered*, then it 
makes no difference at all when the formal publication takes place, or 
where, or whether is is e-only, or hard copy only, or privately printed, 
or printed on demand, etc.

I have been arguing for some 20 years now that adopting this approach 
would be to everyone's collective benefit, for many, many reasons. No 
longer having to worry about the date of publication (or digital versus 
paper), is just one of those many reasons.


P.S.: I can imagine several of you immediately leaping forward with 
questions like "But what if author X takes the manuscript after it is 
registered, and changes it before it is published?" "What if they never 
formally publish it?" - and while those are fair questions, 
superficially, I also think you'll see a few things: first, by virtue of 
the open review process, there is virtually no reason that there WOULD 
be any changes between registration and publication. After all, most (if 
not all!) of the potential referees for the print version will have 
*already* reviewed the work. No errors should slip through that would 
require fixing; e.g., if someone's proposed new names are synonyms, or 
homonyms, or there is some other error regarding Code-compliance 
(failure to state type depository, etc.), that would *all* *get worked 
out* before the work could be approved for registration. Second, if 
changes *are* made, there are several options that could render this a 
non-problem. Which option people prefer could be a separate topic for 
discussion, but off the top of my head, (1) declare that only the 
official registered version of the work has *nomenclatural* standing. 
I'm not talking about minor changes in the final published version, 
which would be irrelevant, but something like altering the composition 
of the type series, changing the spelling of a name, etc. Note that this 
would, in effect, make the archived registered work the functional 
equivalent of a digital publication. As such, even if it never got 
"published" anywhere else, the names and acts in it would still be 
available, *and* possible to cite. This is one of the main reasons that 
I advocate that the *entire works* be registered, rather than just a 
minimalist template. (2) If the author insists that a revised published 
version *needs* to replace the previously-registered version (e.g., they 
found a better specimen to be selected as holotype), then - thanks to 
the entire process being archived - everyone who was involved in the 
original registration approval could be sent a follow-up e-mail asking 
whether or not they approve of the revised version; if so, then the 
revised version replaces the original. This could only be done ONCE, in 
conjunction with the first post-registration publication. (3) Some 
publishers might be convinced to accept the registered version *as is* 
and just print it without any further review or editorial process.

This all could work, and work well.


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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