Wednesday, August 20, 2008

ZooKeys, DOIs, Open Access, and RSS, but why?

ZooKeys (ISSN 1313-2970) is a new journal for the rapid publication of taxonomic names, rather like Zootaxa. On first glance it has some nice features, such as being Open Access (using the Creative Commons Attribution license), DOIs, and RSS feeds -- although these don't validate, partly due to an error at the bottom of the feeds:
<b>Warning</b>:  Cannot modify header information - headers already sent by (output started 
at /home/pensofto/public_html/zookeys/cache/t_compile/%%C2^C2D^C2D18A7A%%rss.tpl.php:5)
in <b>34</b><br />
So, something to fix there.

The RSS feeds are reasonably informative, although they don't include the DOI, which somewhat defeats the point of having them. DOIs need to be first class citizens in taxonomic literature.

But these are technical matters, the real question is why? Why create a new journal when Zootaxa is pumping out new taxaonomic papers at an astonishing rate. Why not combine forces (DOIs and RSS for Zootaxa, yay!)? There is an editorial doi:10.3897/zookeys.1.11 that is rather coy about this. Yes, Open Access is a Good Thing™, but Zootaxa has some Open Access articles. Why dilute the effort to transform zoological taxonomy by creating a new journal?


Kevin Zelnio said...

I too was confused. It seems counterproductive to introduce a new journal with such similarity in name even to Zootaxa. Zootaxa, as you said, has really taken off and it is very exciting to see that. I look forward to publishing in there. As well, the cost for OA in Zootaxa for a typical species description is not backbreaking at $20/page. The charge for ZooKeys seems comparable. Adding another journal just confuses things even more, especially at time when taxonomists suffer from visibility. Zootaxa, I felt, was really starting to unite taxonomy in a way. Being a central resource. I wrote to editor late last year about establishing RSS feeds at least at a phyla level. Never got a response, just like anything I sent to the Zoobank listserve.

I also think the name is confusing. If I didn't hear it was a taxonomy journal, I would have thought it was a clearinghouse for taxonomic keys.

Donat Agosti said...


there are two (I guess among many) reasons why Zookey has been created.

Zootaxa is running a shoe string budget. According toe Zhi-Qiang Zhang, the editor of Zootaxa, the market for Zootaxa is saturated, that means, that they can not generate more revenues. The current huge output is stretching this budget to the limits, and thus does not allow to expand much beyond what they do right now.

Zootaxa is catering to the taxonomists, and taxonomists do want to have a printed copy on the desk and a free pdf they can disseminate. Most (ca 80% if I am right) taxonomists do not care about open access. Does Zootaxa does not, nor can without external funding make a foray into more open access or even XML output.

Zookey is essentially thought as a direct import into systems like EOL. This is being done by producing an output, next to pdf and print, that is XML/RDF based such as SPM, that is currently being explored as format for hanlding taxonomic data.

Zookey wants to be open access, and is looking into upfront creation of XML documents. Such documents can e much richer semantically enhance - the retrospective mark up, even at very coarse level is extremely tedious and will never be able to compete with prospective mark up.

In this respect, Zookey is already a next generation journal in comparison to Zootaxa.

There are about 1300 journals that produce taxonomic output, among them Zootaxa that has a rather large share. Most of this journal are at best pdf-based, and most of them not yet. So, having one more that can be seen as showing a prespective to disseminate publicatons does not do any harm. Especially, if it as succesful as Zootaxa and draws contribution from journals that are difficult to get (to say the least).

Roderic Page said...


None of these arguments strike me as compelling. If open access is a response to market saturation, that option is open to ZooTaxa as well. XML markup would be great, but ZooKeys doesn't have that yet, and in principle there's no reason why Zootaxa couldn't go down that route. This just seems to me to be an ill thought out "fork". Perhaps if Zoobank moves beyond the toy stage it might have an impact, but at present it seems a case of "not invented here".

Anonymous said...