ZooKeys published a forum paper (doi:10.3897/zookeys.21.274) where the concepts of publication, citation and dissemination of interactive keys and other online keys under the open access model are discussed. The concept is illustrated by a sample paper by Sharkey et al. published in the same issue (doi:10.3897/zookeys.21.271) and two more papers published previously (doi:10.3897/zookeys.20.108 and doi:10.3897/zookeys.20.112).
The sample paper represents a taxonomic revision of a hymenopteran subfamily where keys to genera are published in a conventional dichotomous format and, additionally, in three different interactive formats (Intkey, Lucid and MX). The present model is based on previous experience with several existing examples of publishing online keys, however, it also suggests ways to publish, cite, preserve, disseminate and reuse the original data files under separate DOIs and metadata descriptors to the benefit of the authors, future workers, and society in general.
To be regarded as a “formal scientific publication,” an online key should satisfy the same criteria of peer review, registration, persistence, bibliographic description, etc., as conventional publications. Dynamic Web-based interactive keys meet some of these criteria (identification, citation and location), while they may lack other important features of it (persistence, archiving, indexing, science metric and citation metric services). Hence, dynamic interactive keys may benefit from publishing the first version of their underlying datasets in a form of “formal scientific publication”.
The forum paper discusses the minimum set of data files to be published for several different platforms (Intkey, Lucid2, Lucid3, MX) to ensure both (1) priority, identification, location and citation of the firstly published work and (2) future use and re-use of the keys.