Biologiocal Backgroud of the BioCode Initiative of IUBS

Lack of consistent digital tools for determining stable names of organisms is a shared international problem and has serious consequences for advancement of biodiversity research. The rapid
advancement of biodiversity discovery using molecular tools has made these issues more apparent, and a schism in practice is arising. Molecular taxon discovery can be seen as a modern disruptive
technology for nomenclature as it often proceeds without recourse to type specimens and outside current code-based rules for naming new taxa
. The trick with disruptive technologies is to harness
the power of their innovation to improve existing systems, leading to a new whole that is better, faster and greater than the sum of the parts. Rapid taxon discovery through genome-based sequence data has lead increased confidence in recognition of cryptic species in morphologically highly similar macroscopic organisms as well as indication of an unprecedented appreciation of the diversity of
microscopic organisms (prokaryotes, microscopic fungi, protists, viruses, etc.) These approaches highlight gaps in our taxonomic knowledge and at the same time highlight the need to fill in these
gaps and to deal with new taxonomic perspectives. This also means that nomenclatural systems need to be developed in association with these data, either in accord with current nomenclatural practice as
laid down by the existing codes of nomenclature or by alternative means that allow subsequent integration into new, integrative infrastructures.

The uncontrolled proliferation of names in GenBank and extensive experience with the 16S rRNA gene sequence data from prokaryotes has shown that proper consideration should be given to the interrelationship between the rapidly growing sequence-based data sets, their source organisms and their integration into taxonomies and nomenclatural systems. In other areas of research (ranging from sequence-based barcoding, metagenomics or to whole-genome sequencing) the gathering of sequence based data is further contributing molecular methods for the identification and delineation of taxa.

The solution to bringing molecular taxonomy in to the nomenclatural fold will also address issues in traditional practice that have slowed progress in taxonomy, providing a double win. A common digital infrstructure for information on organism names is long overdue, and has been called for by the taxonomic community for decades. Component parts have been developed in taxon- (or
sometimes code-) specific areas, such as ZooBank, Index Fungorum and IPNI. An integrated approach to the digital architecture is today well within grasp, and will allow connectivity between all biological names services. The ICB, with the support of the IUBS, is in a position to bring together the major players in taxonomy and nomenclature to work towards this common goal. This is the logical
extension of the work by the ICB over the past three years, and recent developments in an overarching informatics agenda makes it timely and imperative that bionomenclature contributes to this overall integration. Without a designated programme, however, the issue of organism names will not be sufficiently addressed within the vast topic of informatics in life sciences, so IUBS support is needed for this critical work to proceed.