Sorry to dredge this up again, but I'd really like some input here from my readers. In the past there has been much discussion of how new taxonomic names (i.e. genera and species) published solely in electronic format do not meet the requirements of the ICZN, nor will they meet the requirements of the most recent draft of PhyloCode when it is finally enacted. Journals such as PLoSONE and Palaeontologica Electronica have averted this by providing hard copy as well. However, past discussion has only discussed articles that are officially published.
A new dinosaurian taxon currently hitting the blogosphere is a ceratopsian dinosaur on exhibit at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History in Norman, OK. Norman hosted the annual SVP meeting less than a decade ago and many of us got to see this monster up close, it is quite amazing. A recent blog post on this manuscript over at Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs (one of the best dino news blogs out there IMO, and thus this is not a critique of that post or the site) states that this new specimen has been published this week in the journal Cretaceous Research. However, a visit to the journal website shows that this paper is not in the most recent paper copy of the journal, nor is it even a finished paper published online in advance of print. Instead it is currently only an accepted manuscript and still has to go through the steps of being assigned to a journal issue, not to mention the final proof stage. Thus this new taxonomic name is still pretty far out from the final publication stage. How far? Depends on the journal. Back around this time in 2006 I had a proposed taxonomic name in a paper that had been in the "accepted" stage for almost a year! Most of you probably know how that situation ended. "Accepted" technically is "in press", but until it has been assigned to an issue and the proof stage has been passed there really is no guarantee that the paper will be published anytime soon. Furthermore, various aspects of the paper, including the name, could still change at this stage.
What is to stop someone from providing a really quick publication through a faster outlet (including unfortunately something purportedly called "lulu press")? Nothing except personal ethics of individual researchers and maybe the fear that if someone ever did something so unscrupulous (after having seen the accepted paper) they would get called out by their peers. It seems like a risk to me, especially as this is a specimen that has been on public display for years and there are numerous photos out there.
Also, what if the authors themselves think of a name (genus and/or species) they like better than the current one? At this stage they could still change it. Although they still get the credit for the new name, the old name technically would still be available for another specimen in the future and could cause confusion if someone decided to use it. This does happen. For example, Adamanasuchus was a name originally proposed for the animal now known as Vancleavea. It was published first as a nomen nudum in a 1983 issue of Arizona Highways magazine. Lucas et al 2006 have since used this name (currently valid) for an aetosaur from the same stratigraphic horizon and geographical location.
Furthermore, a purview through the list of "in press" papers at Cretaceous Research shows that this is not the only newly proposed taxonomic name hanging out there. I understand that the journal provides these papers early as a "service" to the readers, but given the taxonomic rules we all abide by that provides the accepted name to the first published in PRINT, I feel that the journals are taking a chance on our hard work going into this research. Sorry but a DOI reference still does not count.
I like readers opinions on this type of extreme early "publishing". Am a sounding overly cautious? Maybe, but I personally don't feel like getting burned twice nor seeing any other researcher burned as well. I you believe testimony given in my past case you might argue that having the name out early might have averted the whole situation; however, knowing the whole history of what really happened I'm not buying it and neither should you.
[P.S. I've mentioned Aetogate as an example of what could happen and really don't want this to degenerate into a discussion of that particular case. What I really want to know is if people really think it is a good idea to put new taxonomic names out there in the accepted manuscript stage where they have no protection against the priority rules in taxonomic nomenclature].
End of the line for the field trip
23 hours ago in The Phytophactor