Detailed action plan for the triennium 2016-2019

The ICB has proposed three major areas for its focus

  1. Development of a formal framework for the naming of organisms discovered using molecular
    tools
  2. Resolving problems associated with the nomenclature for organisms that are or have been treated as covered by more than one of the existing sets of nomenclatural rules.
  3. Development of a co-ordinated life-wide international informatics agenda in support of
    nomenclature and registration of the names of organisms.

While the 2012-2015 programme discussed the first two points, it was quickly realised that many of
solutions lay in implementation of the third focal area, a life-wide nomenclatural informatics agenda.
This is crucial to facilitate communication and harmonised approaches for the issues of molecular
taxon description and ambiregnal taxon names, as well as addressing other practical problems that
slow outputs of taxonomic research. The ICB convened a workshop in 2015 on ‘Digital Nomenclature’ with 15 participants representing major taxonomic and nomenclatural projects from around the world, with a vision of:

Exploiting the opportunity created by nomenclatural registration, mass digitisation, rapid and accessible publication and data generation in e-taxonomy, allowing a step-change increase the rate delivery of biodiversity information, catalysing new research and exposing emergent patterns from complex information. A modernised digital nomenclature is at this nexus.

The workshop resolved that ‘The taxonomic community has yet to fully assemble a digital platform for the registration and propagation of taxon names that can support all the producers and consumers of those names. However, it is clear that such a system is critical and needed, given the key role names play as the link across all biological content. The participants of this ICB-IUBS workshop presented a vision of an interconnected, as opposed to piecemeal, digital platform that respects the long history of nomenclature but that meets the demands of a fast-moving and ‘Big Data’ in 21st century biology.‘

In 2016-19 the ICB proposes to expand on this informatics vision, to deliver the white paper
framed by the 2015 Digital Nomenclature workshop, and to initiate a discipline-wide stakeholder
engagement process. The key issues to be addressed are:

  • developing an interoperable registration process for new names that is harmonised across
    nomenclatural codes
  • ensuring taxon recognition with molecular tools can be integrated with existing nomenclatural practice, with recognition of the new demands from modern high-volume, fine resolution data sources and alternative analyses
  • facilitating dialogue between tool-creators and end users in taxonomy for nomenclatural issues

Detailed action plan for the triennium 2012-2015

As a result of these activities linking communities across biology International Committee for Bionomenclature (ICB) is now opening up three new areas of work aimed at harmonising the various sets of international rules governing the naming of organisms across biology.

  • Development of a formal framework for the naming of organisms discovered using molecular tools
  • Resolving problems associated with the nomenclature for organisms that are or have been treated as covered by more than one of the existing sets of nomenclatural rules.
  • Development of a co-ordinated life-wide international informatics agenda in support of nomenclature and registration of the names of organisms.

The International Committee for Bionomenclature proposes to initiate the first of these, whose rationale is outlined above. Some of the key issues to be addressed by the proposed activity involving the naming of organisms identified using solely molecular tools include:

  • Appreciating the resolution of the molecular data (including methods of analysis) in a taxonomic context.
  • Investigating the value of using such data alone, in the context of taxonomies and nomenclatural systems as currently practiced.
  • Alternative possibilities for administering the data taking into account the requirements of both those who generate the data as well as a diverse range of end users.

The project will drive forward an international agenda on nomenclatural activities in a world in which discovery of biodiversity is increasingly based on molecular tools and whose use is only forecast to increase. This discovery process is currently not compatible with type-based naming as regulated by the traditional nomenclatural Codes (including the BioCode) and the community is in need of a unified system of naming and registering these new entities and integrating our knowledge of them with that of currently named diversity. The work undertaken by the International Committee for Bionomenclature under this project will create the community forum and framework for unifying the naming of these newly discovered taxa and will help to promote the harmonisation of nomenclature that in the absence of the work proposed here looks increasing as though a nomenclature based on molecular data alone will diverge from that currently in use throughout biology, creating significant problems for the future.