Regarding the validity of nomenclatural changes "published" on the web

by Derek S. Sikes

The 4th edition of the International Codes of Zoological Nomenclature does not allow html-web pages alone to constitute "valid publication" for the following reasons:

As stated in Article 8.1 of the 4th edition of the ICZN three criteria must be met for a work to be regarded as published within the meaning of the ICZN.

  • 1. it must be issued for the purpose of providing a public and permanent scientific record.

    Web pages fail to meet the criterion of providing a permanent record. URLs change, web servers go off-line periodically, web-servers require maintenance (software, hardware etc. require updates which may affect the served pages (and in a worst case scenario actually destroy the served pages), power outages at either the client or server end make web pages inaccessible, etc. Using html-based web pages there is, as yet, no way to approach the permanence afforded by paper-based, peer-reviewed journals deposited in the libraries of the world. There is also no means by which readers can be assured that the document hasn't been modified since its original posting.

  • 2. it must be obtainable, when first issued, free of charge or by purchase, and

    This criterion is met by web-page based 'publications' unless one considers the cost of the equipment (modern computer & internet access) necessary to view the pages as a "charge." No special equipment is needed to view paper-based publications.

  • 3. it must have been produced in an edition containing simultaneously obtainable copies by a method that assures numerous identical and durable copies.

    Web pages do not meet the criterion of being produced by a method that assures numerous identical copies. Different client software (browsers) and computer platforms display the same pages differently- font sizes, formatting, etc. differ. Nor does a web-page based publication exist in an edition with multiple copies- in most cases only one original copy is available on the web-that from a single server. To meet the criterion of numerous copies one would have to "mirror" the webpages using more than one server (this criterion seems to address the issue of potential loss of a single document resulting in the complete destruction of the nomenclatural work; having numerous identical copies in various libraries is insurance against fires, bombs, floods, etc.; these catastrophes could easily destroy a single web server of a web-based nomenclatural work).

The undescribed taxa presented within this website are NOT intended to be considered validly published and fail to meet the criteria set forth above. Please do not use these names in any publication (which might result in their validation) until after they have been validly published.

©2015 Chris Simon
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