What is the status of ZooBank?

ZooBank is currently in a development phase, scheduled for public release in November 2010, with updates available on the homepage (www.zoobank.org). It is proceeding in partnership with the development of the Global Names Architecture (see below and http://gnapartnership.org/). Policies for ZooBank are being formulated by the ZooBank committee and data entry continues by a number of specialists. If you have a nomenclatural act you would like to register, please contact Richard Pyle directly at deepreef (at) bishopmuseum.org.

Registration is advised for new names. It is likely to become mandatory for names in electronic-only publications if the amendment on e-only publication passes (e-only publication is not currently valid). Your input on ZooBank is welcome.

Unifying nomenclature: ZooBank and Global Names Usage Bank

(from BZN 66(4): 298, http://www.iczn.org/ZooBank.html)

Taxon names are central to realising the vision of globally interconnected data, including museum specimens, literature, images, video, ecological datasets and other databases. Taxon names are the ‘glue’ that binds most biodiversity information. Unfortunately, much of this information is labelled by taxon names that are little more than text strings, fraught with problems of abbreviations, alternate orthographies, homonyms, novel combinations of binomials and trinomials, and other ambiguities that make it difficult to interpret the intended meaning of the name. The challenge of interconnecting biodiversity data is to establish links between these text-string taxon names and a system of interlinked and unambiguously defined nomenclatural acts.

To address this challenge, several organisations have joined forces to develop the Global Names Architecture (GNA). With guidance from the GNA Advisory Panel and initial support from GBIF, EoL and NBII, the GNA will include components designed to bridge the gap between text-string taxon names and well-documented nomenclatural acts. One component, the Global Names Usage Bank (GNUB), is intended as a public-domain repository for ‘taxon-name usage instances’; an index of the millions of times taxon names are treated in the form of citable documentation (primarily published literature). A subset of these usage instances represents Code-governed nomenclatural acts or taxon concept circumscriptions, and many more are labels to other biological data (e.g. specimens, ecological data and distribution information). In a sense, taxon-name usages (TNUs) represent the ‘least-common denominator’ among all nomenclatural Codes, as well as (ultimately) all of biodiversity information.

Development of GNUB has important implications for the implementation of ZooBank. ZooBank was originally conceived as a ‘database’ of nomenclatural acts, associated publications and other relevant information. Our revised vision positions it as a service that operates on the GNUB (with a secure copy maintained by the ICZN). ZooBank would identify specific records within GNUB that constitute ICZN-governed nomenclatural acts (and associated published works), provide a mechanism for validating the accuracy of the contained information and ‘certify’ each in terms of Code compliance. As the Official Registry of the ICZN, this ZooBank service will be vital to (1) representing scientific names correctly and (2) cross-linking and transforming incorrectly rendered scientific names into their Code-correct forms. This would be a major step towards a technological unification of biological nomenclature.

- R. Pyle (Commissioner) & E. Michel (Executive Secretary), December 2009

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith