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Indeed, inadequacies of related initiatives Species, Integrated Taxonomic Information System, and the Zoological Record, to name but a few highlight the enormous sociological challenge and effort needed to make ZooBank a success. Polaszek and Michel draw on historical comparisons with efforts to build indices of animal names. Examples include completely independent efforts of Schulze and Neave to provide precisely the same list of all animal genera a lesson in duplication that some current initiatives could do to learn and Sherborn's — monumental efforts to write his Index Animalium.

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The chapter by Pyle and Michel details the more practical minutiae of building ZooBank. Nearly 73, nomenclatural acts have been registered in ZooBank since , although all but a fraction are retrospective registrations that predate ZooBank's inception. With 16—24, nomenclatural acts published annually some estimates put this figure as high as 30,; see Polaszek and Michel , it is hard to see how the manual processes of entering records can keep pace with the volume of new names.

Mandatory registration might be enforced by the ICZN as a condition of formalizing a nomenclatural act. To greater effect, publishers need to integrate their activities with ZooBank, such that registration is a service provided to the author as part of the publication process. There are signs that this is already happening among publishers who have a deep and vested interest in this area.

Pyle and Michel report that the publishers of Zootaxa and Zookeys are actively engaged in the development of ZooBank; and I know from recent personal correspondence with Pensoft publisher of Zookeys that prospective ZooBank registration is likely to become obligatory for nomenclatural acts published in their journals in the near future. How electronic publication might interface with registration of names is an issue touched on in one of two chapters on taxonomic publishing.

Knapp and Wright examine issues concerning archiving, accessibility, the date of publication, and the type of electronic medium in taxonomic publishing. Despite their optimism that these issues can be resolved, they are decidedly reluctant to suggest that taxonomic publications are currently ready to exist in a wholly digital medium. Instead, they pose a series of challenges that must be addressed, before this transition can take place.

To my mind, initiatives like ZooBank are made to take on these challenges, and it therefore seems unfortunate that ZooBank, publishers, and ICZN are not closer to solving these problems. In some quarters, I am not even certain that ZooBank is recognized as a possible solution. At first sight, recent events such as Knapp's publication of 4 new plant species in an e-only journal, PLoS One Knapp , appear to bring us one step forward, until you read the footnotes to discover that Knapp had to print out and send paper copies of these articles to 10 major libraries on the day of publication to remain compliant with the ICBN codes.

This is hardly a scalable solution to the problem of accepting electronically published nomenclatural acts; surely stakeholders can do better than this? Without question, one indisputable publishing success in the field of zoological nomenclature is the taxonomic mega-journal Zootaxa. In a chapter by Zhi-Qiang Zhang, Zootaxa 's chief editor and founder describes how this publishing sensation has come from nowhere in to dominate the taxonomic publishing landscape as the world's largest taxonomic journal. To put this into perspective, Zootaxa 's closest rival Journal of Natural History currently accounts for just 1.


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Zootaxa was founded because it was becoming increasingly difficult for taxonomists to publish purely taxonomic works in mainstream biological journals. Coupled with this, most taxonomic publishers were providing poor levels of service. It was not uncommon for authors to wait a year or more before taxonomic manuscripts came to print, and publishers were doing little to promote these journals that were often very expensive for libraries to purchase.

Zootaxa addressed these issues by embracing the web and thus reducing publication costs; speeding up the publication rate by building an extensive network of editors to manage review, and streamlining publication in small issues after acceptance; keeping a low cost base such that there are no page charges or a small fee to support open access; and crucially offering the flexibility to publish manuscripts of any length, so long as they pass peer review. This allows Zootaxa to publish specialist monographs that might not otherwise have been printed due to the recent decline in institutional monograph series.

In effect, Zootaxa has helped defragment the publishing landscape for zoological taxonomy, making taxonomy findable, and enabling the disciple to benefit from the network effects of increased collaboration. Despite the success of Zootaxa and new comparable journals like Zookeys , online versions of taxonomic publications are for the most part still presented as static PDF documents, with the Internet used primarily as a convenient distribution medium for the text. In fact, very few publishers have embraced the radically different forms of publishing afforded by new and increasingly web-based technologies.

In a chapter on new tools to accelerate the taxonomic process, Johnson challenges this model, highlighting a series of databases that have been integrated into the workflow of platygastrid wasp taxonomists, enabling researchers to rapidly conduct taxonomic revisions and simultaneously generate taxonomic treatments for publication. The principles behind this are not new. What has changed are two things. First, software tools have become easier to use, offering an integrated experience for the taxonomist that supports the entire taxonomic workflow from project inception to publication.


Second, these tools are on the Web, supporting more collaborative efforts in generating and publishing taxonomy. The taxonomic process becomes streamlined through efficient reuse of data e. Whether the tools Johnson and his colleagues are building scale to the whole of the taxonomic community is a matter of some debate.

As a general rule, it takes 10 times as much effort and funding to build robust scaleable software as it does to demonstrate a principle Atkins et al. Also, hymenopterists have a long tradition of databasing their work with sufficient structure that it can be efficiently reused.

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Nevertheless, Johnson and his colleagues are treading new ground as they show that the components of taxonomic publications can be implemented as collaborative database applications. From Johnson's approach to publication, it is a short conceptual step to entirely electronic, dynamic taxonomic publications. The mode by which papers might be consumed includes not only human readable text, but automated extraction through data mining and semantic enrichment.

These can support new aggregations of data mashups , reusing and synthesizing information on demand in ways that are not possible by using the traditional concept of fixed, static publications. This vision or at least part of this vision is the subject of several chapters that examine the future of taxonomy. Wheeler makes a passionate case for embracing new technologies that address the scale of the challenge facing taxonomists. But for all his passion, there is little practical advice in his text. Hanken fares a little better with his description of the Encyclopedia of Life, especially with respect to their scanning and digitization work under the banner of the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

However, I am justified in saying that the current EOL experience is underwhelming for both taxonomists and the general public.

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This book justly celebrates the enormous accomplishments of the taxonomic community in cataloging almost 1. This is illustrated in the book's final chapter, in which Fredrik Ronquist reminds us that the birthplace of Linnaeus still has an active role in modern taxonomy through the work of the Swedish Taxonomy Initiative. The positive outlook presented by Polaszek and colleagues is especially encouraging from a discipline that at times has an unfortunate tendency to focus more on what it has not done, than on what it has achieved. Most of all, Systema Naturae reminds us that taxonomy is an information science, drawing on an enormous and diverse collection of data to build a coherent picture of the extent and trajectory of life on earth.

Taxonomists are beginning to face up to the magnitude of this task with technical approaches that scale to the challenge; they are addressing the fragmentation of their output by redefining what it means to publish; and it is doing this with less, not more. Fewer researchers, less funds but greater efficiency. Like Linnaeus, the next generation of taxonomists will still be the synthesizers—people able to put together the right information at the right time to document the natural world.

What has changed is the scale, speed, and mode of disseminating this work. Through these endeavors, taxonomy has the chance of reaching a new audience. It is this new audience that will likely dictate whether taxonomy survives the next quarter millennium. Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford.

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    Table of Contents for: Systema naturae 250 : the Linnaean ark

    Article Navigation. Close mobile search navigation Article Navigation. Volume Article Contents. E-mail: vince vsmith. Oxford Academic. A celebration of years of the scientific naming of animals, Systema Naturae - The Linnaean Ark records and explores the history of zoological nomenclature and taxonomy, detailing current and future activity in these fields. Descriptive taxonomy has been in decline, despite the fact that the classification of organisms through taxonomic studies provides the foundation of our understanding of life forms.

    Packed with illustrations and tables, this book establishes a vision for the future of descriptive taxonomy and marks the beginning of a period of rapid growth of taxonomic knowledge.

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    Linnaeus: A Passion for Order. Daniel Rolander: The Invisible Naturalist. Future Taxonomy. Celebrating Dynamic Years of Nomenclatural Debates. We provide complimentary e-inspection copies of primary textbooks to instructors considering our books for course adoption. Most VitalSource eBooks are available in a reflowable EPUB format which allows you to resize text to suit you and enables other accessibility features. Where the content of the eBook requires a specific layout, or contains maths or other special characters, the eBook will be available in PDF PBK format, which cannot be reflowed.

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