28.06.2019 09:06

Open Science: A lot of work ahead

Figure 1. Chart exemplifying the use of the three spreadsheets presented here. Inputs in red, outputs in green (https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3259246)

In our liberation effort, I came across this recent article (doi:10.11646/zootaxa.4624.1.12 ) with the very promising title “Spreadsheets to expedite taxonomic publications by automatic generation of morphological descriptions and specimen lists” by pure chance, because the system threw an error message that no treatment has been discovered. So, at least I found and looked at it. The author suggests a very pragmatic way to expedite the production of taxonomic publications by using spreadsheets for morphological descriptions and specimen lists. Sounds all right at first but then I wondered and thought, where do we stay in taxonomy today?

First, the article is closed access, so only the few people who would know and either had access via a library subscription or write emails to obtain a copy would be able to read it.

Second, the example cited in the article, a large revision of a crevice weaver spider genus is behind paywall too (doi: 10.1206/00030090-426.1.1). So there is no way to look at the example. But in fact, the article would also be accessible via the AMNH site, where it is open access and accessible via this handle (handle/2246/6925).

The revision itself is extremely detailed with pages of materials citations. In fact, with our tools we were in a first round not able to extract the materials citation automatically, and I think nobody else can do it routinely. Thus, this data is lost, but would fare much better if it would also be available next to the holotype data, for example in GBIF.

Although the author might have good intentions, this suggestion is pointing in the wrong direction – the direction into imprisoning data and thus locking it up rather than make it widely accessible.

There is probably not one single publication further apart from the idea of open science. The author obviously has no idea what he does. The editor and publisher who publishes a technical publication that ought to speed up taxonomic production in a journal that is about taxonomic description exclusively and almost entirely closed access.  The publisher of the taxonomic revision very rich in data generated by the proposed method who ends up in a closed access repository (BioOne) despite it is open access originally. The article itself does not include a handle nor a DOI.

Everybody looking at the content hidden in the article (see also GBIF, BLR) would for sure agree, that it is in fact a very serious piece of work and adding to our understanding of a group of spiders, for which there is no record in GBIF or Catalogue of Life.