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The nomenclature process in other fields


This discussion of numbering schemes has led me to more closely
examine how other fields deal with evolving nomenclature.  I've
cruised the web and looked at examples from zoology, space geography,
genetics, enzyme research, and biochemistry.  Some observations:

1) All these fields have official boards that handle nomenclature.  In
general, these other fields have a much richer nomenclature than we're
talking about (i.e., it's usually more than just a number).  There are
usually guidelines for coming up with a candidate name that generally
encodes one or more taxonomic elements.

2) All these fields rely on the discoverer providing the name.  They
give strong preference to the first use of a name in a published work.
There is generally a method for someone to submit a name for approval
by the naming authority (and subsequent higher authorities), and one
of the criteria for approval is that it has already been used in
published works.  I don't think that criterion would apply in our
field.  There does appear to be general agreement that naming comes
from some "controlled" neutral mechanism.

3) Most of these fields have a much slower time line than we do.  For
example, a zoological name doesn't become fully "official" for at
least three years.  Names often go through several committees before
there is field-wide acceptance.

4) Zoology is moving towards standards that should be followed when
someone uses a "candidate" name in literature, namely: (a) the name
should be clearly identified as a proposed new name; and (b) a
standard code is used to mark the name as a proposed name,
e.g. (sp.nov) for species or (fam.nov) for families.  This is similar
to "encoding" the status of a vulnerability in some of the CVE
candidate numbering schemes that have been proposed.

5) A database for planetary nomenclature has a field which reflects
the status of the nomenclature, with values such as "suggested,"
"approved by group X (and increasingly higher level groups)," and
"dropped/disallowed."  Planetary nomenclature is updated about yearly.

6) Gene naming may be the closest analogue.  (Consider an article
titled "An increasingly urgent need for standardized gene
nomenclature" that has very similar themes with "Towards a Common
Enumeration of Vulnerabilities" ;-) About 70 human genes per month are
named, 100 or more per month for the mouse.  The gene naming includes
references to other (apparently) standard databases.  The naming is
updated monthly and appears very much like the virus WildList, i.e. it
identifies new names, modified names, and withdrawn names.

7) For yeast genes, that naming registry has a mechanism to allow
someone to "reserve" a gene name, e.g. when they're about to publish a
journal article.  This registry appears to have similar guidelines and
mechanisms for resolving conflicts that the CVE input forum may wind
up having.

8) All the nomenclature sites I've looked at allow you to search for a
particular entity, either using alternate names (references) or
well-known taxonomical information.

- Steve

Page Last Updated or Reviewed: May 22, 2007