Publication of results is one of the cornerstones of the scientific endeavour. Differences between scientific and general publishing were first articulated by Henry Oldenburg, who as Secretary of the Royal Society, established the first English-language scientific journal, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society . Oldenberg’s functions for scientific publication were dissemination, registration, certification and archiving (called by him the “Minutes of Science”); scientific publishing therefore has a role in informing not only in the present, but also for future generations. Scientific (scholarly) publication has seen great change driven in part by increased interconnectivity of research communities, massive increases in funding for research and development since the middle of the 20th century, and key technological advances such as the Internet. These drivers are characterised as having as big an effect as the replacement of parchment by paper, or the advent of mass printing technologies . Moves away from print on paper to electronic-only publishing parallel increasing scientific activity on-line, and the pace of change in this area of scientific publishing is increasing, with more and more journals converting to on-line only publishing (e.g., Evolution, New Phytologist, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society).
“Published work” has a central place in nomenclature (the scientific naming of organisms), and until January 2012, nomenclatural acts published in electronic-only form were not considered valid/effective (see [1, 3, 4]) leading many to consider the taxonomic community as distinctly behind the curve relative to the rest of the scientific community. Discussions about publication went on in both the zoological and botanical (those working on algae, fungi and plants) communities, but largely separately, since the two rulebooks for naming (Codes of nomenclature) are governed very differently (see  for a history of the Codes), although many of the central issues were the same for both. Here we treat only e-publication as it pertains to algae, fungi and plants, whose nomenclature rules are contained in the current International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi and plants , hereafter referred to as the ICN or Melbourne Code. Decisions about changes to the rules of naming for this community are made at Nomenclature Sections of International Botanical Congresses (IBC) held every six years [7, 8].
Discussions about electronic publication in the botanical community began in the 1990s, formal proposals at the 1999 XVI IBC in St Louis  and at the XVII IBC in Vienna  to allow e-publication were defeated, but suggestions about e-publication were included in the Vienna Code [11, 12]. Issues arising were largely those of archiving, accessibility and tracking dates of publication; this last is critical, because the principle of priority that is one of the pillars of nomenclature depends upon accurate knowledge of date of publication (see  for an explanation of the principle of priority). A Special Committee was established at the Vienna Congress to examine the issues, with the mandate to prepare proposals for the next IBC in Melbourne in 2011 . Over the six years between the XVII (Vienna) and XVIII (Melbourne) Congresses, publication rules were challenged by Knapp , who published new species in PLoS ONE - an on-line only journal - and complied with letter of the Code by depositing ten offprints in botanical libraries .
30A.2. To aid availability through time and place, authors publishing nomenclatural novelties should give preference to periodicals that regularly publish taxonomic articles, or else printed copies of a publication (even if also distributed electronically) should be deposited in at least ten, but preferably more, botanical or other generally accessible libraries throughout the world including a name-indexing centre appropriate to the taxonomic group. .
This posed a significant cataloguing and preservation challenge for libraries, who felt they might be facing a deluge of single- or few-page paper copies of papers describing new species  (also see Doug Holland conference presentation: “Libraries and the Code: The changing role of botanical libraries in the age of electronic publication.”, Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG) 2011). Proposals put forward by the Special Committee on Electronic Publication  to allow e-publication under the then “botanical code” were accepted overwhelmingly at the Nomenclature Section of the XVIII IBC in Melbourne Australia in July 2011 [17, 18]. At the same time, proposals to change the rules that required a description or diagnosis of new taxa to be in Latin were also accepted [18, 19]. Changes to the rules of naming usually come into force two years after the IBC, but such was the excitement of many in the community for change that these two major changes were voted to come into force in January 2012, a year earlier than “normal” . About six months later, the zoological Commissioners voted to accept e-publication of new names and nomenclatural acts for animals , and backdated their new rule to January 2012 to harmonise dates. One major difference in the implementation of e-publication in the two communities is that in zoology, e-publication must be accompanied by registration in ZooBank (www.zoobank.org; for description of ZooBank see , while for algae, fungi and plants, e-publication is only another publication type and is not necessarily linked to registration. Fungal names, however, must be registered to be validly published .
The advent of e-publication for nomenclatural acts for algae, fungi and plants was both welcomed and feared (see Table 2). Tracking the realization of these effects is difficult for many groups of organisms, but with vascular plants, we have a unique opportunity to conduct an analysis using data from the International Plant Names Index (IPNI, www.ipni.org) which records new names and combinations (generic reassignments, see ) for these taxa. IPNI began as Index Kewensis, which was started with a £250 legacy from Charles Darwin in his will for the “establishment of an index of all plants” [22, 23]. It was conceived in a time when it was feasible for a scientist to own all the relevant literature for their field, but it was even then necessary to have a bibliographic index to avoid repeated reference to scattered primary sources. The Index captured the name, authorship and basic bibliographic details of published plant names. In 1983 the data were digitised to an electronic database format, and in the late 1990s Index Kewensis was amalgamated with the Gray Card Index (GCI) maintained by the Harvard University Herbaria and the Australian Plant Names Index (APNI) to form the International Plant Names Index (IPNI, www.ipni.org see ). This dataset is accessible online and is continuously updated by a dedicated editorial team as new names are published; approximately 8000 new name records are added each year. The dataset is a valuable resource for trends analysis regarding the time, location and method of publication of new plant names.
In this paper, we analyse publication trajectories for nomenclature governed by the ICN  using data from IPNI to examine whether the hopes-increased participation, increased rate of description-or fears-avalanche of sloppy nomenclature, proliferation of new on-line journals - have been realised. It is not our intention to review the debates on e-publication in taxonomy here, nor are we comparing the effects of the changes in the rules between zoology and botany (algae, fungi and plants). Problems with the new rules have been highlighted by some [24, 25], and within the community working with algae, fungi and plants, new changes to improve the rules surrounding e-publication continue to be proposed . These will be discussed at the Nomenclature Section of the XIX IBC in Shenzhen, China in July 2017 (Shenzen XIX IBC).