Where are BZN issues? What is happening with the Diplodocus petition? Is anyone home at the ICZN?

December 12, 2016

Back at the start of September, I noted that Tschopp and Mateus (2016) had published a petition to the ICZN, asking them to establish Diplodocus carnegii as the type specimen of the genus Diplodocusa role that I argued it already fulfils in practice.

I wrote a formal comment in support of the petition, which I submitted on 7 September; and the next day I had word from the secretary of the ICZN that it had been received and would be published in the next issue of the BZN — the Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature.

Since then I have had emails from a couple of different people asking me for the formal citation details of my comment, and I have made three or four separate attempts to discover whether it’s appeared in BZN yet. And I have been completely unable to find out.

First stop is the ICZN web-site’s case-finder, available in the sidebar at pages such as Cases and List of Available Names. But that doesn’t find Case 3700 (the Diplodocus case). I don’t just mean it doesn’t find my comment; it doesn’t find the case at all.

By poking around the site at random, I found this page, which has a tree-structured list of cases in its sidebar. Towards the bottom is a link to Case 3700 — hurrah! — but that link just says “BZN view could not find any content :(”

All right, then, let’s go to the ICZN’s site’s page about the Bulletin. As the page itself proudly proclaims in the sidebar, “The Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature (ISSN:0007-5167) is the official periodical of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature”. And yet the page content just says:


Either no literature content has been added to this site, or it has not yet been indexed. Indexing can take up to one hour, so please check back later.

So I tried a more general search for the BZN elsewhere on the Web.

All in all, there seems to be literally no meaningful Web presence of the Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature — which is the journal of record for, well, Zoological Nomenclature. If, like me, you want to discover the status of cases … well, you just can’t.

Oh, at no-one at the ICZN Twitter account is responding to my tweets. But then the most recent tweet from that account is from 15 May 2014, so it’s been dormant for more than two and a half years.

So my question is: *knock knock* is anyone home?

Here’s why this matters. It’s well established that Zoological Taxonomy is important (e.g. Vink et al. 2012) and that as a discipline it’s under threat. Now, the ICZN is the only game in town when it comes to authoritative taxonomy. It is the undisputed guardian of the zoological taxonomic record, and it’s had to weather threats to its own existence before a recent injection of funding. So it’s crucial that, as the standard bearer of its field, the ICZN does a solid, competent, professional, reliable job.

That has to start with making the journal of record available — or at least, if the Commission really really doesn’t want to go open access, making its table of contents available so people can see what’s been decided. If that’s not happening, then whatever decisions the Commission makes are the sound of a tree falling in a deserted forest.

We need the ICZN to up its game.


7 Responses to “Where are BZN issues? What is happening with the Diplodocus petition? Is anyone home at the ICZN?”

  1. Ken Carpenter Says:

    Here is the last word I got from the President of the ICZN:

    Sent: Monday, October 3, 2016 10:13 AM
    To: Kenneth Carpenter
    Cc: Secretary, ICZN
    Subject: RE: Case 3700
    Dear Kenneth,

    Martyn is on vacation from 3-8 October, but I will urge him to reply as soon as he is back.
    Case 3700 was only published recently, which means that there is ample time to publish Comments. The Commission recently had to establish its Secretariat in Singapore with only one person dealing with all secretarial issues. Because of that we are delayed in many of our otherwise routine operations.

    I know that the remaining three issues of volume 73 are well underway, but they will not be published until mid-December. I am sure Martyn will get back to you so that your Comment can be processed and published before the voting on Case 3700.

    Best regards,

    Thomas Pape, Natural History Museum of Denmark
    President of ICZN

  2. Ken Carpenter Says:

    By the way, the email for the secretary (Martyn) of the ICZN is iczn@nus.edu.sg

  3. Mike Taylor Says:

    Thanks, Ken, that is helpful.

    Even if only one person is dealing with secretarial issues, they badly need someone to keep their website alive. I’m sure it wouldn’t be too hard to find a volunteer with some Web development experience who would like have “Reinvigorated and maintained the ICZN website” on their CV.

  4. I, too, have found the ICZN website to be frustratingly byzantine at times and been unable to find relevant information on it. It’d be nice if the BZN and other taxonomic stuff was easier to find.

    On a related note, regarding failures of the ICZN, I recently noticed that several ZooBank LSIDs don’t seem to have been activated (e.g. the megaraptoran Murusraptor is listed as in press and the stem-mammal Lende from 2015 isn’t on the site at all).

  5. Mike Taylor Says:

    Hi, Gunnar, thanks for this pointer. I’d seen the ruling, and we really should have written something about it.

    It’s a bit pathetic that something like this is behind a paywall, and 100% opposite to the aims of the ICZN. As a favour to them, I am hosting a free copy at http://www.miketaylor.org.uk/tmp/ICZN2018_opinion%202425%20Diplodocus%20longus%20maintained.pdf

  6. […] The ICZN is an old and timeless treasure of mass coordination across all facets of zoology, and its rules shape how modern taxonomy works. As Mike Taylor aptly put: […]

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