The International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
) is an organization dedicated to "achieving stability and sense in the scientific naming of animals". Founded in 1895, it currently comprises 28 members from 20 countries, mainly practicing zoological taxonomists. The ICZN is governed by the "Constitution of the ICZN" which is usually published together with the ICZN Code.
Members are elected by the Section of Zoological Nomenclature, an almost entirely unknown and obscurely defined body established by the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS) (neither the Code nor the Constitution talk about how it shall be composed). This means that the members of the Commission are elected by themselves. They are not elected in a democratic process by means of registration of and direct voting by those taxonomists who have to accept the decisions of the Commission.
The regular term of service of a member of the Commission is 6 years, re-election is possible various times (after 18 years a 3-year absence is prescribed before the person can be re-elected again). Commissioners may be up to 75 years old. If they do not participate in the decisions and do not communicate for more than 3 months, the Commission has the right to terminate their membership.
The work of the Commission is supported by a small secretariat based at the Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum is one of three large museums on Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London, England . Its main frontage is on Cromwell Road...
in London, and funded by the International Trust for Zoological Nomenclature (ITZN), a charitable organization. The Commission assists the zoological community "through generation and dissemination of information on the correct use of the scientific names of animals."
The ICZN publishes the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature
The International Code of Zoological Nomenclature is a widely accepted convention in zoology that rules the formal scientific naming of organisms treated as animals...
(usually referred to as "the Code" or "the ICZN Code"), a widely accepted convention
A convention is a set of agreed, stipulated or generally accepted standards, norms, social norms or criteria, often taking the form of a custom....
containing the rules for the formal scientific naming of all organism
In biology, an organism is any contiguous living system . In at least some form, all organisms are capable of response to stimuli, reproduction, growth and development, and maintenance of homoeostasis as a stable whole.An organism may either be unicellular or, as in the case of humans, comprise...
s which are treated as animal
Animals are a major group of multicellular, eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Animalia or Metazoa. Their body plan eventually becomes fixed as they develop, although some undergo a process of metamorphosis later on in their life. Most animals are motile, meaning they can move spontaneously and...
s. New editions of the Code are elaborated by the Editorial Committee appointed by the Commission. The 4th edition of the Code (1999) was edited by seven persons. This process did not involve democratic procedures in the sense that any taxonomist affected by the new rules had a choice.
The Commission also provides rulings on individual problems brought to its attention, as arbitration may be necessary in contentious cases, where strict adherence to the Code would interfere with stability of usage (e.g., see conserved name
A conserved name or nomen conservandum is a scientific name that has specific nomenclatural protection. Nomen conservandum is a Latin term, meaning a "name which should be conserved"...
). These rulings are published in the Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature