18 October 2013

The PhyloCode Has a Deadline

As most of you probably know, the PhyloCode (more verbosely, the International Code of Phylogenetic Nomenclature)  is a proposed nomenclatural code, intended as an alternative to the rank-based codes. It was first drafted in April 2000, and at that time the starting date was given as "1 January 200n". On this date the code would be enacted and published along with a companion volume, which would provide the first definitions under the code, establishing best practices and defining the most commonly-used clade names across all fields of biology.

Well, the '00s (the zeroes? the aughts?) came and went without the code being enacted. The hold-up was not the code itself, which has been at least close to its final form since 2007. (The last revision, in January 2010, was minor.) And it hasn't been the software for the registration database, which has been completed. The hold-up was the companion volume, which turned out to be a much more daunting project than expected. (And considering that the zoological code took 66 years to go from being proposed to being published, perhaps the initial estimate should have been hedged, anyway.)

At the 2008 meeting of the International Society for Phylogenetic Nomenclature (ISPN), this problem was discussed. It was decided that the companion volume should be narrowed in scope. Instead of waiting to get definitions for commonly-used clade names across all fields of biology (many of which did not even have willing authors), entries would be limited to those already in progress. Later on, a revision was also made to the editorial process to help speed things up.

Now for some news: at the website for the ISPN (recently revamped by yrs trly), there is a new progress report for Phylonyms, the companion volume to the PhyloCode. There will be at most 268 entries. Currently 186 of those (over two thirds) have already been accepted. The rest are at various stages of review. But perhaps most excitingly, there is a deadline:
The contract with University of California Press calls for the manuscript to be submitted by September 1, 2014.
 Yes, folks, we will see the PhyloCode enacted in our lifetime! (Pending nuclear holocaust or alien invasion.)