Monday, March 14, 2011

ICZN and Open Access, or ICZN's self-inflicted no-role

This is probably the most unbelievable discussion on a thematic list serve I have come across for a long time:

I suspect you are both missing the point here. Please read the abstract once again:
http://iczn.org/content/cyclodina-aenea-girard-1857-currently-oligosoma-aeneum-reptilia-squamata-scincidae-proposed-

unfortunately, I don't have access to the whole article, only the abstract (can anyone send me the PDF, please?), but, as I understand it:

Cyclodina aenea Girard, 1857 has been found to be a junior subjective synonym of Tiliqua ornata Gray, 1843, but *both names* are in current usage (as Oligosoma aenea and O. ornata, respectively). What the authors want is to retain the usage of *both names*. Suppression of Tiliqua ornata Gray, 1843 is not going to help! The *only way* is to designate a neotype for Tiliqua ornata Gray, 1843 ...

Stephen [ICZN-list listserve, Mon 3/14/2011 11:41PM]


Here is the ICZN who faces an uphill battle to loose nomenclatorial control over the scientific names of animals, who is unable to provide lists of available names so they could offer a service to judge whether a name has already been used, and who wants to sort out errors in the naming of species. And here are the way discussions are led on their list serve, because their cases and opinions are not open access.

One of the main reasons why ICZN can not produce a list of available names is copyright. If there is no copyright for taxonomic material we could provide at least today instant access to all the nomenclatorial acts that are currently published. There are many barriers in a world where such acts are published in over 1,200 journals and books annually, but those are decreasing with the change from print only to print/electronic publishing, and especially those from non-western countries becoming open access. This process could even go faster, if the Biodiversity Heritage Library wouldn't have to run against to copyright wall.

But here is the ICZN that uses copyright and bars even those seriously interested but not attached to an institution with a subsription from reading their material. This policy is a sign far beyond nomenclature that all the discussions we lead about open access, not to speak developing technology to provide machines access to harvest its content automatically (so for example Zoobank could become more efficiently if it ever sees the light of the day), is null and void, because we believe in copyright.

Thorpe's comment is the best example how detrimental such a policy is to the discussion of internal affairs, but to the enforcement of open access. But luckily, there is an increasing move to provide and request open access from our funding bodies, so that ICZN with its publishing policies is once again maneuvered into the offside.

I wonder why ICZN can afford to add to the their loosing battle of controlling names in the electronic world another policy to play at the no role in the important nomenclatorial control of scientific names. But may be better, why it takes so long to realize what that open access is the only way out of the dark.

I am sure the reason for this business policy is that those revenues from the sale of the Bulletin is needed. If this barrier of non-access is detrimental to ICZN, I wonder whether this is the right business model to adhere to. What is clear though, is that a no-access policy is not very attractive for any funding agency.

P.S. If you are interested in reading the Bulletin, you can purchase it here

3 Comments:

Blogger Frank said...

or ask the ICZN Secretariat for a free pdf of the Case or Opinion you are interested in:
http://iczn.org/contact

Frank Krell, Commissioner

11:44 PM  
Blogger Mike Taylor said...

I have to agree with this. The U.S. Constitution is completely clear that, in that country at least, copyright exists for the benefit of the sciences and arts, not publishers or even authors: Congress is empowered "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries" (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8). In a case like this, it's clear that the very copyright law that was intended to promote science is instead impeding it: the tail is wagging the dog.

(Of course, as a Brit myself, the U.S. Constitution does not directly govern the law in my own country; but since we have no analogous document of our own, this seems like a reasonable place to go.)

Frank, it's great that the ICZN Secretariat is prepared to send PDFs of Cases and Opinions to all who ask; but since almost no-one knows this is the case, almost no-one will ask. (It certainly wouldn't occur to me to write to the editorial board of Nature to request a free PDF of one of their articles.) It would help hugely if the online BZN tables of contents, and abstract pages, had prominent "Request A Copy" links. (But if you're doing that, why not just make the PDFs freely available and have done?)

2:37 AM  
Blogger Donat Agosti said...

Frank,
it is not so easy to get a copy: "Furthermore, the person who is responsible for sending such documents works 1 day/week, so turn around within at 12 hour period (since this issue hotted up last night at 8:15pm London time) would be a challenge for us." Ellinor Sterling via ICZN-list

But what worries me more is that "The Commissioners do not have access to the publication production documents" as well.

How can you efficiently work in such an environment, where clearly we do not wait for days or more to do our work and increasingly ignore things that are not online available: Stephen Thorpe's comment was the origin of this thread, where he posted a comment, and others followed based on an abstract only.
Not providing access = providing an impediment to science.

12:08 AM  

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