International Committee for Bionomenclature: Naming organisms in an age of molecular-based biodiversity discovery

The International Committee for Bionomenclature (ICB) was created in 1995 by joint decision of the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS) and the International Union of Microbiological Societies (IUMS) – the Founding Unions – to explore ways and means to harmonise the various sets of international rules governing the creation and use of scientific names of organisms. The Committee has supported the Biocode Programme, whose work resulted in 1) the BioCode Framework for Principles and Rules Regulating the Naming of Organisms and 2) Biological nomenclature terms for facilitating communication in the naming of organisms. The Committee continues to explore new programmes and works though its members to bring the communities of scientists naming all organisms together. New life-wide challenges to cataloging, registering and managing knowledge of biodiversity have arisen from the very rapid application of molecular tools to the process of biodiversity discovery and their apparent incompatability with naming as mandated by the traditional codes of nomenclature. In its project ‘Naming organisms in an age of molecular-based biodiversity discovery’, the International Committee for Bionomenclature will promote the development of a forum that will lead to agreed protocols in the registration and management of information about all types of organisms discovered with new and emerging molecular tools.

Leader:Elinor Michel

Steering Committee: Regine Jahn (Deputy Secretary); Members: MJ Adams, N Cellinese, JC David, D Fautin, GM Garrity, W Greuter, DL Hawksworth, Sandra Knapp, PM Kirk, J McNeill, David Patterson, R Pyle, D Remsen, G Rosenberg, B Tindall, J Todd, J van Tol, N Turland.

Countries involved: Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Spain, United Kingdom, USA

IUBS Scientific Members involved in the project: International Association for Plant Taxonomy (IAPT), International Committee for Bionomenclature, Organisation for Phyto-Taxonomic Investigation of the Mediterranean Area (OPTIMA), Taxonomic Databases Working Group (TDWG)

Field of Research: Biology, Nomenclature


Development of a new international group driving discussion of cutting-edge issues in the conjunction of molecular biology and the naming of roganisms and with that, an internationally agreed framework for dissemination of protocols for the recognition, registration and management of organisms described using  the tools of molecular-based biodiversity discovery.

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. This discovery process is currently not compatible with type-based naming and we are 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.

Assembly of an international working group to address the needs for formal recognition of species discovered using only molecular tools. Programme outputs: (1) An appendix to the International Committee for Bionomenclature BioCode Framework dealing with policies and guidelines for nomenclature and registration of taxa ientified using only molecular identifiers. (2) A new forum for discussion and development of an international agenda on this rapidly developing subject.

International Union of Biological Sciences
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