Splitters and Lumpers: why planet Earth needs taxonomists, AFP, August 31, 2008. Excerpt:
…Today many biologists are clamouring for a new approach to cataloging the planet’s flora and fauna that goes beyond morphology and takes evolution into account.
A dozen competing theories have cropped up in the last decade, and at least one of them, called PhyloCode, has gained serious traction.
In other scientific disciplines, new ideas elbowing out old ones is a normal and essential process. But in taxonomy, renewal poses a special problem: how can you replace plant and animal names used for two-and-a-half centuries without causing chaos? …
In an effort to catapult the current classification system into the 21st century, a number of taxonomists have launched Zoobank, a Web-based [OA] registry of organism names. Some 1.8 million species are listed so far.
"The registry will be the central place where everyone can go look to see what is going on in the rest of the world," said [Richard Pyle, a zoologist and fish specialist at the Bishop Museum in Hawaii, and an officer in the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN)], who described it as the "most profound change in taxonomy since Linnaeus."
But even this seemingly common-sense step has created controversy, pitting advocates of Internet-based, openaccess publishing against traditional and powerful publishers.
Under the current system, a new species does not officially exist until the scientific report of its discovery appears in print.
PS: For background, see our past posts on ZooBank.