Electronic publication of nomenclatural acts is inevitable, and will be accepted by the taxonomic community with or without the endorsement of the Code

1st October 2009

Michael P. Taylor
Department of Earth Sciences, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, U.K. (e-mail: <dino@miketaylor.org.uk>)

Abstract. The recent description of the fossil primate Darwinius masillae in the online journal PLoS ONE exemplifies an increasingly common problem: nomenclatural acts in non-print venues that are not considered 'published' under the Code's Articles 8.6 and 9.8. Although the name Darwinius was subsequently validated by the publication of hardcopy offprints of the electronic paper, other zoological names have been published electronically in this and other online journals, and the broader taxonomic community's acceptance of these invalidly published names suggests that it is the Code itself that is outdated in refusing to recognise names accepted by everyone else. If the Code is not quickly changed to accommodate electronic publication, it will become marginalised and ignored, to the detriment of sense and stability in nomenclature. The increasing prevalence of electronic publishing leaves only a small window of opportunity in which the Code can act to regulate nomenclatural acts in these venues. Fears regarding the conservability of electronic documents are not justified, as the ability to quickly and cheaply make abundant perfect copies makes an electronically published paper impossible to eradicate. Likewise, worries about the unsuitability of the ubiquitous PDF format for long-term conservation are largely groundless now that the PDF archival format, PDF/A, is an international standard. The world has changed, and in order to remain relevant the Code must serve the world as it actually is, not as we may wish it was.

Keywords. Nomenclature; taxonomy; publishing; electronic publishing; nomenclatural acts; Darwinius masillae; PLoS; PDF.


Feedback to <mike@miketaylor.org.uk> is welcome!