New paper in PNAS


Widespread support for a global species list with a formal governance system.

Lien AM , Banki O, Barik SK, Buckeridge JS, Christidis L, Cigliano MM, Conix S, Costello MJ, Hobern D, Kirk PM, Kroh A, Montgomeryl N, Nikolaeva S, Orrell TM, Pyle RL, Raz L, Thiele K, Thomson SA, van Dijk PP, Wambiji N, Whalen A, Zachos FE, Zhang Z-Q & Garnett ST. 2023.
PNAS 120 (45) e2306899120. Published online 30 October 2023


Taxonomic data are a scientific common. Unlike nomenclature, which has strong governance institutions, there are currently no generally accepted governance institutions for the compilation of taxonomic data into an accepted global list. This gap results in challenges for conservation, ecological research, policymaking, international trade, and other areas of scientific and societal importance. Consensus on a global list and its management requires effective governance and standards, including agreed mechanisms for choosing among competing taxonomies and partial lists. However, governance frameworks are currently lacking, and a call for governance in 2017 generated critical responses. Any governance system to which compliance is voluntary requires a high level of legitimacy and credibility among those by and for whom it is created. Legitimacy and credibility, in turn, require adequate and credible consultation. Here, we report on the results of a global survey of taxonomists, scientists from other disciplines, and users of taxonomy designed to assess views and test ideas for a new system of taxonomic list governance. We found a surprisingly high degree of agreement on the need for a global list of accepted species and their names, and consistent views on what such a list should provide to users and how it should be governed. The survey suggests that consensus on a mechanism to create, manage, and govern a single widely accepted list of all the world’s species is achievable. This finding was unexpected given past controversies about the merits of list governance.