Introducing New Australian Taxa, a fully-online, fully open-access journal for the rapid publication of new Australian species
K.R. Thiele (1, 2*) & M.S. Harvey (3)
(1) School of Biological Sciences, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Hwy, Crawley, Western Australia 6009, Australia.
(2) Western Australian Herbarium, Biodiversity and Conservation Science, Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, Locked Bag 104, Bentley Delivery Centre, Western Australia 6983, Australia.
(3) Department of Terrestrial Zoology, Western Australian Museum, Locked Bag 49, Welshpool DC,
Western Australia 6986, Australia.
With this paper we introduce New Australian Taxa and outline its scope, rationale, operation and governance. New Australian Taxa is one of the world's first fully-online journals. Papers are born-digital and born-online. They are authored on the New Australian Taxa website, and all subsequent steps (peer-review, editing, copy editing and publication) take place on that website. At no stage does a paper in New Australian Taxa need to exist as a document in a word-processing application (unless an author chooses to write some content off-line and paste it into the journal's online editing platform later). This fully-online processing substantially eases and accelerates workflows, and reduces the costs of production and publishing to a minimum. For these reasons, New Australian Taxa is also a diamond open access journal, with no access charges for authors or readers. New Australian Taxa is optimised for the rapid publication of new Australian taxa across all organismal groups (animals, fungi, plants etc.), and is part of an overarching strategy to substantially accelerate the discovery and taxonomic documentation of Australia's biodiversity.
Publication date and citation
Introducing New Australian Taxa
New Australian Taxa is an innovative new journal with a specific goal - to accelerate the documentation of Australia's biodiversity by providing an efficient and effective platform for the rapid publication of new species and other taxa.
Taxonomy—the discovery, documentation and classification of the Earth's species and other taxa—is a fundamentally important discipline. Taxonomists provide the 'map' by which others, from biodiversity and conservation scientists to the general public, navigate the complexities of the living world. Without the framework and map provided by taxonomy, many other critically important and impactful scientific research disciplines would be greatly compromised.
However, taxonomy is currently too slow given the scale of the task and the urgency created by a rapidly accelerating extinction crisis. In Australia the best estimate is that 70% of all marine and terrestrial species remain undiscovered and un-named, and at current rate (i.e. the average number of new species named per year) it will take more than four centuries to complete the task of documenting our biodiversity (Australian Academy of Science 2018).
As one small contribution towards solving this problem we offer New Australian Taxa, a platform for the rapid publication of new species. Three innovations in New Australian Taxa will contribute to speeding up the publication of new species.
Firstly, New Australian Taxa is a fully-online journal. Contributions are authored, reviewed, edited, copy-edited and published in an integrated online platform. At no stage does a contribution to New Australian Taxa need to exist as a document in a desktop word processor. Instead, the New Australian Taxa platform comprises a series of online forms with prescribed but flexible fields for all content. Once a paper has been authored, peer-reviewed, edited and approved for publication, it is automatically formatted and published directly on the same platform with no manual page-setting.To our knowledge this is a world-first.
Secondly, New Australian Taxa does not impose strict style and formatting constraints. A feature of virtually all journals, and all taxonomic journals, is tight editorial control over style including content, referencing, specimen citations etc. There are multiple standards for many aspects of style, resulting in different journals adopting different, and often idiosyncratic, style prescriptions. All authors are familiar with the problem of a paper formatted in a word processor for one journal, which then needs to be substantially and tediously re-formatted for another.
In New Australian Taxa, many of these style constraints are removed. There is no requirement for all contributions to be styled the same; the only requirement is that styles conform with best practice, do not hinder clear and unambiguous presentation of content, and are applied consistently within a contribution.
Thirdly, an important editorial and peer-review philosophy of New Australian Taxa is that content must be adequate but not excessive for high-quality taxonomy. In some communities of practice in taxonomy there has been a gradual escalation in expectations of adequacy of a taxonomic publication. Authors are often expected, by journal editors and reviewers, to describe new taxa in excessive detail, including the description of morphological characters that are not diagnostic in the group and the inclusion of numerous illustrations and line drawings of structures that are taxonomically superfluous or of limited diagnostic value. This substantially slows the publication of new species.
Authors, reviewers and editors of contributions to New Australian Taxa, by contrast, are enjoined to find a balance, ensuring high-quality taxonomy and the provision of adequate information for every new taxon while at the same time ensuring that descriptions of new taxa can be completed in a fast, efficient and effective manner. The end-goal—to contribute to an acceleration of taxonomic documentation while not compromising the quality of that documentation—will be kept in mind at all times.
New Australian Taxa is a Diamond Open Access journal (Fuchs & Sandoval 20013); that is, there are no access charges for either authors or readers. The fully-online publishing platform allows this, by streamlining the handling of contributions and removing the need for manual page-setting and hence the running costs for the journal. As with many academic journals, editing and reviewing is unpaid. The only fixed costs of New Australian Taxa are the costs of running the website and maintaining an ISSN (borne by Taxonomy Australia) and minting DOIs.
New Australian Taxa is fully compliant with the provisions for online publishing in the international codes of nomenclature for zoology, botany and mycology. Published contributions are made available in Portable Document Format (PDF) using the PDF/A archival standard. Being an online publication, all new taxa in zoology and mycology will require registration in appropriate registries (Zoobank, Mycobank). There is provision for recording a registration number or URL in the online editing form. Once published, contributions to New Australian Taxa can never be altered or edited in any way.
Each issue of New Australian Taxa will comprise a single contribution, paginated as a complete issue (that is, page numbers for every issue will start at 1). Published PDFs will be available from the New Australian Taxa Home page and the Biodiversity Heritage Library. Each contribution will be lodged with the ISSN National Centre for Australia, as required under the provisions of the International Standard Serial Number (ISSN).
Each issue of New Australian Taxa will comprise a single contribution. This may be the description of a single species or other taxon, a miscellany paper with a range of species, or a small taxonomic revision. In general, larger taxonomic revisions are likely to be more appropriately published in more conventional journals.
The scope of New Australian Taxa is restricted to taxonomic publications dealing with Australian terrestrial or marine taxa. The definition of 'Australian marine' is loose, and any taxonomic publications relating to Australia's surrounding oceans, including the Southern Ocean between Australia and Antarctica, will be accepted.
New Australian Taxa workflow
Contributions to New Australian Taxa are authored online. The starting point for authoring a contribution is the Author's Dashboard (Fig. 1) accessible from the Taxonomy Australia website (https://www.taxonomyaustralia.org.au/). The Dashboard is used to track papers through the authoring, peer-review and editing process to final publication. Contributions at any stage (except while undergoing peer review) are accessible from the Dashboard. A new paper can be commenced from the Dashboard. Access to the New Australian Taxa Dashboard requires that a user sign up to the Taxonomy Australia website and be logged in.
Papers are authored by writing formattable text in a series of editable fields (rich text boxes) on an editing form. Some fields (title, author fields, abstract) are mandatory; others (e.g. introduction, materials and methods, results, discussion, acknowledgments, references) are optional, while others still are conditionally mandatory (e.g. for zoological and mycological papers registration with Zoobanks or Mycobank is mandatory, while for botanical papers registration is not required). Optional fields can be displayed or hidden from a checkbox list at the top of the form. This structure allows a paper to be customised from e.g. a simple, single-species paper with an introduction and taxon fields (see below) but no results or discussion section, to a fully-featured paper with materials and methods, discussion and results followed by a taxonomy section.
One formatting limitation of New Australian Taxa is that figures and plates are limited in number, must be a standard width (950 px) and will not be intercalated within the text but instead gathered into one or more blocks. Up to five captioned figures and plates may be included to illustrate the general section of the paper (introduction etc.). These will be page-set in a block before the Taxonomy section. Each figure or plate may be a collage.
Taxa are dealt with in a Taxonomy section. A paper may include zero to many taxa. Taxa are added to the Taxonomy section, then edited independently. As with the paper in general, each taxon section comprises a number of mandatory fields (name, typification, description), optional fields (synonymy, specimens examined) and conditionally mandatory fields (registration). A Notes field may include as many headings as required and is fully flexible. Each taxon may have up to five captioned figures and plates, and these will be page-set in a block after each taxon. Each figure or plate may be a collage.
Detailed instructions and guidance for authors are given as help text after each field, and in help pages accessible from the New Australian Taxa Home page and Author's Dashboard.
While a contribution is being edited it, and its individual taxon sections, may be saved and re-opened as many times as necessary. As each taxon is completed a checkbox allows it to be saved as 'Done'. Done taxa are marked as such in the taxon list in the body of the paper.
When a paper is complete, a checkbox allows it to be saved and submitted. A check of mandatory fields is completed before the paper can be successfully submitted. Once submitted, the paper will be marked 'In review' in the Dashboard. While papers are in review they may be viewed but not edited by the author(s).
Reviewing. As with authoring, all reviewing is done using online forms. In the reviewer's view of a paper each content field will be followed by a field for reviewer comments, corrections or suggestions. At the end of the paper, fields are provided for general review comments to authors and editors, and for a decision. A reviewer will be able to open, save, and return to their review as many times as necessary, until done. Once reviewed, the reviewer will record their decision, mark the paper as reviewed, and commit their review.
In keeping with the intent and approach of New Australian Taxa, reviewers are asked to carefully consider all review comments and to keep in mind at all times that the intention of New Australian Taxa is to facilitate the rapid, efficient and effective publication of new taxa. Reviewers are asked to take due regard of issues in a paper that reduce its taxonomic merit, but not to impose burdensome requirements that add minimal taxonomic value. In keeping also with the intent and approach of New Australian Taxa, reviewers are advised to assess internal stylistic consistency, adequacy and clarity within a contribution, but not to be concerned if the stylistic requirements within the paper unbder review differ from other papers in the journal.
Post-review workflow. Once a paper has cleared review, it will be listed as Reviewed in the Author's Dashboard. Authors will be able to read and deal with reviewer's comments and mark comments as Done. Once all review comments have been dealt with and the paper saved, it will proceed to copy edit. As with review, when a paper is in copy edit the paper authors will be able to view but not edit the paper. A copy editor will check for copy issues, style inconsistencies or lack of clarity, and ensure that the paper is ready for publication. After copy edit the paper will be available to the authors in proof. Final edits can be made, then the paper marked as ready for publication. At this point an editor will finalise publication details (citation and DOI registration) and the system will complete page-setting and create a final PDF.
Multi-authoring. A paper may have multiple authors. The primary author has full control of the paper including submission and dealing with the post-review workflow. The primary author may allow others to edit either the general section of the paper or individual taxa. Access by secondary authors to the paper is gained by the primary author sending a semi-secure URL. The URL is semi-secure because any recipient of the URL has edit rights to that portion of the paper, as long as they are a member of the Taxonomy Australia website and are logged in; the URL is unguessable, preventing casual or unauthorised access by others. Note that there are currently no safeguards against editing clashes if two users are editing the same portion of the paper at the same time. Ensuring that multi-authoring editing workflows do not cause editing clashes is the responsibility of the authors.
The New Australian Taxa community
New Australian Taxa is a community journal for the Australian taxonomic community. It has no publisher, but is supported by Taxonomy Australia, which represents and advocates for the taxonomic community.
In keeping with this, all contributors to New Australian Taxa are regarded as belonging to the New Australian Taxa community. Authors are expected to review and help edit and copy edit papers contributed by others, in their field of expertise. Note that editing as well as reviewing is a shared activity across the entire New Australian Taxa community. Two or more Executive Editors will have oversight of the process, but responsibility for ensuring the quality, smooth operation and timeliness of the workflow is broad-based.
Governance of New Australian Taxa
As a publication of Taxonomy Australia, overall governance of New Australian Taxa will lie with the Taxonomy Australia Steering Committee. This is a broad-based, representative committee, comprising representatives from key sector peak bodies, associations and subsectors (e.g. universities, early and mid-career researchers). Day-to-day governance will be the responsibility of the Executive Editors.
Figure 1. The New Australian Taxa Author's Dashboard. New papers may be commenced by clicking the Write a new paper button. Papers in progress and published are accessed using the Dashboard's flow-chart: clicking on any step in the flow-chart will provide access to a listing of papers at that step, with opportunity to view and/or edit the paper.
Australian Academy of Science (2018) Discovering biodiversity: a decadal plan for taxonomy and biosystematics in Australia and New Zealand 2018-2027.
Fuchs, C. & Sandoval, M. (2013) The Diamond Model of open access publishing: why policy makers, scholars, universities, libraries, labour unions and the publishing world need to take non-commercial, non-profit open access seriously. tripleC 13(2): 428-443, 2013. DOI: