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International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature gets $1.35 million boost

December 14, 2015

The International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN), the organisation overseeing the naming rules for animal species, together with the National University of Singapore (NUS), has set up an endowment fund to protect the long-term viability of the ICZN. This will be announced at a General Meeting of ICZN held in conjunction with the 32nd International Union of Biological Sciences Conference in Berlin, Germany. The International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS) (established 1919) is a non-governmental and non-profit organisation that promotes the study of biological sciences as well as co-ordinate scientific activities that require global interdisciplinary co-operation. ICZN is one of the Scientific Members under the umbrella of IUBS.

In the last six months, the ICZN Secretariat Endowment Fund, which was set up in late 2014, has received gifts totalling S$1.35 million - which exceeds a quarter of the long-term target of S$5 million. This includes two substantial gifts amounting to S$1.34 million from the Lee Foundation in Singapore. The American Association for Zoological Nomenclature, the Ichthyological Society of Japan and several private individuals also contributed to this fund. The interest generated from this endowed fund will support the operations of the ICZN Secretariat.

The ICZN secretariat, which is now based in the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) at NUS, hopes to grow the endowment fund so that it can fully support the work of the ICZN secretariat office in Singapore for perpetuity. By building up an endowment comprising gifts from the public and private benefactors from around the world - an approach similar to the funding model of the LKCNHM - it will allow ICZN to enjoy long-term operational stability.

The secretariat is important as all 25 commissioners are senior scientists and full-time professionals in universities, museums or institutions, serving the ICZN on a voluntary basis. Key duties of the Secretariat include running the office, handling questions from the taxonomic community, consolidating cases and issues faced by the Commission, as well as formalising new rules. The secretariat also coordinates with the scientific editor of the Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature to disseminate the cases and decisions, as well as opinions associated with the Code.

ICZN's Financial Woes

In November 2013, ICZN commissioners met in Singapore to ponder challenges facing the procedures and rules for naming animals in the years ahead. It also had critical discussions on its own future - notably the financial challenges confronting it with the closure of the International Trust for Zoological Nomenclature in London. The Commission decided to set up a more distributed secretariat with offices in Singapore and London. During this meeting, NUS agreed to support the ICZN Secretariat for several years, considering its importance to zoology and science. The Natural History Museum in London meanwhile, also agreed to continue publishing the Commission's journal, the Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature. These interim measures were to allow the ICZN to seek additional financial support and establish an endowment to ensure its long-term survival.

A Fresh Start

Professor Peter Ng, Head of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum at NUS and Commissioner of ICZN, with the strong endorsement of the whole Commission, started the endowment fund to support the Singapore office.

ICZN President Dr Jan van Tol from the Netherlands says he is very pleased that Prof Ng has reached the first major milestone with a very substantial gift from the Lee Foundation in Singapore, which is also a major benefactor of the LKCNHM. He added, "The establishment of the Secretariat at NUS in Singapore is also an implementation of my vision that ICZN has to evolve into a truly international organisation, with a strong representation in the megadiverse regions of the world."

"The ICZN Secretariat Endowment Fund has now truly started its life to ensure that the secretariat is now securely based in the NUS, a global university centred in Asia. This development is considered very appropriate by the community of zoological taxonomists since this is a part of the world in which science is growing at a rapid pace and the challenges associated with biodiversity discovery and conservation are especially acute," said Prof Ng, who is leading the fundraising campaign for the ICZN Secretariat Endowment Fund.

National University of Singapore

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