Revisionary taxonomy in a changing e-landscape
Scoble MJ., Clark BR., Godfray HCJ., Kitching IJ., Mayo SJ.
© 2007 Nederlandse Entomologische Vereniging. Fixed-publication (whether paper, CD-ROM or PDF files) as the medium for descriptive taxonomy is being challenged almost by default and is unlikely to survive in the long-term - at least as the sole means of publication. The future is already apparent in a number of online approaches to revisionary (descriptive, monographic) taxonomy that involve continuous addition and correction of data. Such information comes from single source web pages to databases linked in distributed networks. The ubiquity of the Internet for promoting particular views is likely to be too strong to resist, however persuasive the arguments for control by the codes of nomenclature. This prediction is strengthened by the diminishing workforce of professional taxonomists (who are largely responsible for shaping the Codes) involved in describing life on the planet. While taxonomists may be unable to control taxonomic content in the new and more anarchic medium (other than within their own diminishing community), they do have the opportunity to shape the field to the benefit of their own close community and the much wider (yet undefined) user base. An Internet-based approach to revisionary taxonomy is described in the CATE project (www.cate-project.org). This allows new taxonomic proposals to be made against an integral community style peer-review process forming part of the workflow. It also provides the opportunity for high quality products to be maintained through the incorporation of well-tested taxonomic standards. We also consider that there is much merit in treating taxonomy overtly as an information science, while still regarding it as an intellectual endeavour in its own right. This shift in emphasis is explored by examining the growing influence of e-projects in the changing taxonomy landscape.