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Online-only publications and nomenclature

Started by Martin Spies, October 03, 2015, 09:04:23 AM

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Martin Spies

The message copied below was sent to an e-mail list maintained by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN).


The ICZN is receiving a steady flow of questions about the requirements that electronic publications need to fulfil to be available for nomenclatural purposes in zoology.

Together with co-Commissioner Thomas Pape I have published a paper entitled "Electronic publications need registration in ZooBank to be available."
in  Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature 72 (3): 245–251.

We hope that this paper answers some of the most common questions. It is available here:

or here:

or here:

The ICZN encourages you to ask a Commissioner or the ICZN Secretariat or the ICZN list ( if you have any questions that the Code doesn't answer (or answers in a way that it difficult to understand). Such questions help the Commission to improve the next edition of the Code.


Dr. Frank-T. Krell, Chair, ZooBank Committee

Commissioner, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature

Curator of Entomology
Department of Zoology
Denver Museum of Nature & Science
2001 Colorado Boulevard
Denver, CO 80205-5798 USA
Phone: (+1) (303) 370-8244
Fax: (+1) (303) 331-6492
lab page:

Martin Spies

Dear colleagues,

As there have been several papers in chironomid research in which the problems addressed below have resulted in formally invalid data, please consider the following widely distributed message from the current president of the nomenclature commission.

Dear colleagues,

The number of electronic-only publications failing to comply with ICZN requirements certainly is an issue of some concern. The Commission is currently looking into this.

The scale of the problem is not known, but it certainly involves dozens of 'works' and most likely a non-trivial number of zoological names and other nomenclatural acts.

The criteria required for electronic-only works to be regarded as published for the purposes of zoological nomenclature were advertised widely and are contained in ICZN Article 8.5 [see or BZN 69(3): 161-169]. Some editors and authors have evidently missed these provisions (in all, or in part) and have inadvertently provided new names (or other nomenclatural acts) in non-compliant publications, which for that reason are to be considered as not published (i.e., non-existent in a nomenclatural sense).

One issue that has added to the magnitude and complexity of the problem is the occasional misconception that only the *names* need to be registered in ZooBank. While this is highly desirable and strongly recommended, the basic requirement is that the *work* (article, paper, book) be registered, including a specification of the intended archive and the ISBN or ISSN number (along with some other requirements).

Another issue is that some journals, when discovering the shortcomings of a given paper, have provided a 'corrigendum', but being unaware of the full implications of Article 8.5, this has in many cases not provided Code-compliance as intended. Often, the corrigendum refers back to the non-compliant work, but as this is to be regarded as not published, the content in it is not nomenclaturally available, and the corrigendum fails to include all the criteria necessary for making the name or act available.

Further, non-compliant electronic-only publications may contain not only names but also other nomenclatural acts (typifications, spelling issues, First Reviser acts, precedence, etc.), which like the work itself will have to be considered as not published and as such not available for zoological nomenclature.

As mentioned, we are looking into this, but I should like to encourage everybody to help disseminating the relevant criteria for e-only Code compliance to editors, colleagues, students, etc. throughout the zoological community. And it is worth noting that the fraction of names passed to ZooBank by an automated registration workflow is rapidly growing.

Thomas Pape
ICZN President

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