ISSN: 1800-427X (printed)
eISSN: 1800-427X (online) DOI:10.47605/tapro.v11i2.282
Published date: 22 November 2022
Pp. 47–53EDITORIAL : The how and why of scientific naming: What’s in a name?
Michael S. Engel
Section Editor: Taprobanica, the journal of Asian Biodiversity
Quite a lot, actually. Names organize and give meaning to our world. They give us identity and allow us to communicate clearly and efficiently. In the context of scientific names for living and fossil organisms, they link data from around the globe into a synthetic framework from which we can make powerful predictions and effective strategies: everything from governmental policies and next-generation medicines to the origins of diversity and its responses to climate change. These, and many other reasons, are the why, but how is equally important. Unlike folk taxonomies, which are rich in cultural tradition and applicable only at local scales, scientific nomenclature must abide specific rules to remain effective globally, unbounded by the vagaries of local customs. These names must also transcend time so that data from past and future generations can be meaningfully synergized for their greatest benefit. Not surprisingly, to achieve such lofty goals, an entire form of information science is needed, one complete with its own terminology and pragmatic rules. The how of scientific naming is as vital as the why, for to fail at the first means catastrophe for the fundamental reasons of the latter. Imagine bad practices for the scientific naming of drugs or diseases and the tsunami of disastrous impacts that would follow. Now imagine the same if we failed at communicating about disease-transmitting mosquitos or poisonous mushrooms. Scientific names have life-sustaining importance and we cannot be cavalier about taxonomic science and formalized nomenclature.