[Taxacom] Article 8 compliance

John Noyes j.noyes at nhm.ac.uk
Fri Mar 31 06:13:52 CDT 2017

Hi Rich,

I am just going to throw a bit of a spanner in the works. Since sending you my reply I have been giving this a bit of thought. I have come to some surprising conclusions (to me at least). Why do we need to register names at all? Why do we need ZooBank? 

Personally I like to keep things as simple as possible and it seems to me that your comments make it sound that things could get a whole lot more complicated. Of course nobody knows yet what will be required for registration under your system (maybe you can give us some ideas of what you personally have in mind). My serious worry is that the requirements to register each name would be so complex and time consuming that it may end up being a serious impediment to the registration process itself. In turn this would (I think would rather than might) result in parallel nomenclatures/taxonomies: one that complies with the system of "registration = available" and another that basically maintains the status quo. I must say, as one who has produced and still hopes to produce larger revisionary works (up to 380 new species in each) I would absolutely baulk at sitting down to register that number of new names (name, typification, primary type depository, basic diagnostic characters (surely those will be a requirement), etc.). I doubt that any publisher I have in mind would do this for me. I am not alone feeling this way.

By far the simplest solution is to treat electronic publications the same as printed publications without any requirement for registration. It could be quite a bold step, but at a stroke we would lose the creation of new so called "orphan taxa". It could be a requirement that only PDFs and PDF/As would be acceptable as valid e-publications, but this could be reviewed, under discussion with publishers, when the need arises if novel methods of acceptable electronic publication appear. However, even with this simplicity some problems would continue but they could be ironed out by discussion with publishers, i.e. date of publication; pagination change in different versions of the same article, etc. 

What about archiving electronic publications? I think at best the Code can only recommend this. As it stands there is no guarantee that publishers archive their e-publications even though it is a requirement that they name an archive when registering an article on ZooBank. I would hope that most publishers do actually archive their publications but it is difficult to prove this. Of course there is a worry that some e-published articles will be lost if they are not archived. I think this would be a very, very rare occurrence and would have very little effect on taxonomy as a whole. In almost every case there will be a copy maintained somewhere. If an article can be shown to be lost might it be possible for the ICZN to make a ruling that all included nomenclatural acts are deemed unavailable? After all, we already have to do something along these lines if we want to designate a neotype (but without involving the ICZN). I suspect that in such a case the taxonomy included in the article would have been eminently forgettable in any case, that being the reason it is eventually lost.

OK, we could still include a recommendation that all new names are registered on ZooBank. I think most taxonomists would be happy to do this on a voluntary basis so long as the requirements are kept to the bare minimum.  Personally I do not see much difference between the "registration = available" model and a requirement that all taxonomic articles must published only in specified journals (this suggestion was overwhelmingly thrown out by the botanists and is not popular amongst zoologists). I think that either system could be seen as "western taxonomic imperialism".

If e-publications are accepted without the impediment of registration the it could get very much cheaper and quicker to publish taxonomy. If taxonomists/publishers were given the option of archiving their work(s) on ZooBank and making them freely available (i.e. open access) then that would be a real bonus. Some of the most productive taxonomists at the moment are retired and find it difficult to obtain funds to pay for publishing. However they can easily self-publish and in making their publications open access their works would become much more widely and easily available than under the current system. For those whose careers depend on publishing in higher ranking journals nothing needs to change from the system that we currently have. I really believe that if this were to be followed the rate of publication in taxonomy would dramatically increase because it would become faster, easier and cheaper. I do not think that the risk of poor taxonomy or taxonomic vandalism under this system would be any worse than under any other model except perhaps Doug's "registered = published = available" (which is much less acceptable to me than publishing taxonomy only in specified journals). 

Just some thoughts, but I think some of the above points need to be aired.  


John Noyes
Scientific Associate
Department of Life Sciences
Natural History Museum
Cromwell Road
South Kensington
London SW7 5BD 
jsn at nhm.ac.uk
Tel.: +44 (0) 207 942 5594
Fax.: +44 (0) 207 942 5229

Universal Chalcidoidea Database (everything you wanted to know about chalcidoids and more):

-----Original Message-----
From: Richard Pyle [mailto:pylediver at gmail.com] On Behalf Of Richard Pyle
Sent: 30 March 2017 18:42
To: John Noyes; taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: RE: [Taxacom] Article 8 compliance

Hi John,

> Fair enough, but maybe it is not so much crafting the 5th edition of 
> the Code to offer a more stable solution but crafting ZooBank to do that.

Yes, the two go hand-in-hand.  Note that I said the new system should be "modelled after" ZooBank.  A LOT would have to change with the existing ZooBank before it could fulfill the function I imagine.

> Do you have a cunning plan? 

I'm not sure "cunning" is the best adjective, but there certainly is a plan.

> By any reckoning it would take an
> investment of at least $10m. 

More like ~$1-2M for initial development, and then something on the order of a few $K per year to maintain, plus occasional small (5-figure) grants to add major new features/etc. as needed/requested by the community.

> Meanwhile we still have to live with the 4th edition and the Article 8 
> amendment . . .

I predict a new, robust ZooBank will be in existence well before the 5th Edition goes into effect, but they need to happen in parallel.  Of course, to build a radically new approach to how names are established in a Code-compliant fashion requires very strong engagement by the broader community.  I believe the new system should be designed bottom-up (i.e., by the community establishing a clear set of priorities), rather than the top down. And that means many conversations like this one.  Before we even get into the detailed discussions, we (the community) needs to decide things like:
- What are the minimum required pieces of information needed to confer availability to new names and acts?
- What additional optional information should be accommodated?
- If provisions such as Art. 13.1.1 are maintained, then exactly what objective threshold should be used to determine whether the requirement for "a description or definition that states in words characters that are purported to differentiate the taxon" has been fulfilled?
- Should the rules go beyond stating the name and location of the collection where the type is deposited, and, for example elevate Recommendation 73C.6 to a requirement? (e.g., require an explicit actionable identifier for a type specimen be indicated)
- Should all new names and acts undergo some form of independent review prior to being established as available?  If so, how are the reviewers determined, and who arbitrates disputes among conflicting reviews?

I could go on and on, but the point is that the system should be defined by the identified needs; not implemented first to figure out what the strengths and weaknesses are after the fact.  THIS is the conversation we need to be having as a broader community.

In addressing your point above, another option would be to craft another Amendment (= "band aid") to the fourth edition; but I'm strongly opposed to that because it would represent a significant distraction from getting the more important work of the 5th Edition completed.


Richard L. Pyle, PhD
Database Coordinator for Natural Sciences | Associate Zoologist in Ichthyology | Dive Safety Officer Department of Natural Sciences, Bishop Museum, 1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI 96817
Ph: (808)848-4115, Fax: (808)847-8252 email: deepreef at bishopmuseum.org http://hbs.bishopmuseum.org/staff/pylerichard.html

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