I only just realised … the draft Phylocode does not recognise electronic publication!
June 14, 2010
A comment by Charles Epting on the recent article about self-publication led me to check the relevant section of the draft Phylocode, which I’ve read once or twice before but not recently enough for this to have hit me with the force it ought:
From Chapter II. Publication, and specifically Article 4. Publication Requirements:
4.2. Publication, under this code, is defined as distribution of text (but not sound), with or without images. To qualify as published, works must be peer-reviewed, consist of numerous (at least 50 copies), simultaneously obtainable, identical, durable, and unalterable copies, some of which are distributed to major institutional libraries (in at least five countries on three continents) so that the work is generally accessible as a permanent public record to the scientific community, be it through sale or exchange or gift, and subject to the restrictions and qualifications in the present article.
4.3. The following do not qualify as publication: (a) dissemination of text or images solely through electronic communication networks (such as the Internet) or through storage media (such as CDs, diskettes, film, microfilm and microfiche) that require a special device to read.
I am … flabbergasted, if that’s the word I want. (I always want to spell that with an “h” after the “g”.) This language is obviously derived from what’s in the ICZN — for example, “must have been produced in an edition containing simultaneously obtainable copies by a method that assures numerous identical and durable copies” becomes “must consist of numerous (at least 50 copies), simultaneously obtainable, identical, durable, and unalterable copies”.
And the result is that, just like the ICZN, the draft Phylocode does not recognise electronic publication.
Just think about that. It means that if you define a clade in most of the PLoS journals, it won’t count (unless the journal does one of its inkjet-and-staples special print runs for you). It also means that any clades you define in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London will not count when the initial online article is published, but only when the later printed edition comes out. In other words, it means that both the science journals that are growing most quickly in influence and prestige and the oldest science journal in the world will both be useless for phylogenetic nomenclature.
I am sure that’s not what the Phylocode authors want.
That’s particularly true in light of the code’s further requirement that in order to be valid, clade definitions need to be registered. Really, once a name is officially registered in the Phylocode database and its definition is in a paper published by a reputable publisher and existing in thousands of bit-for-bit-identicial copies in every country in the world, what else is needed for stability? Fifty stapled inkjet copies?
It seems particularly startling in light of the fact that even the notoriously slow-moving ICZN seems now to be recognising that electronic publishing is inevitable; it would be pretty horrible if by the time the Phylocode is finally implemented, the ICZN has accepted its electronic publishing amendment and the Phylocode is seen to be trailing behind the ICZN in recognising the reality of the world we live in. (For anyone who is not yet convinced of that reality, I recommend *cough* Taylor 2009, which is a pleasantly easy read.)
Is it too late? Can the Phylocode be fixed before it’s implemented? Can it just be done, or will it need lengthy discussion first? If this doesn’t get fixed, will anyone take the Phylocode seriously? Is there even a serious argument for keeping the Article 4.2 language as it is now?
I don’t know the answers to any of these questions. Does anyone else out there?
In other news …
I am astounded at the lack of response to University of California vs. Nature, which seems to me just about the most significant thing that’s happened in the world of academic literature since, well, forever. Can it really be that everyone else’s response is, and I quote, “meh”?
- Curry Rogers, K. 2009. The postcranial osteology of Rapetosaurus krausei (Sauropoda: Titanosauria) from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 29(4):1046-1086.
- Taylor, Michael P. 2009. Electronic publication of nomenclatural acts is inevitable, and will be accepted by the taxonomic community with or without the endorsement of the Code. Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature 66(3):205-214.