Animal names arbiter gets $1.35m


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Dr Jan van Tol (right), President of International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) who will be based at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, which is headed by Prof Peter Ng (left). ICZN has found steadier footing in the form of a $1.35 million; the ICZN Secretariat Endowment Fund, almost all funded by the Lee Foundation will ensure its sustainability, and help better coordinate its scientific research.

The International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN), a global organisation which advises and arbitrates the standardisation of scientific names of animals, has partnered NUS to set up an endowment fund to protect the long-term viability of the ICZN. When the body faced financial difficulty two years ago, the University offered to host it at a cost of S$100,000 a year.

The ICZN Secretariat Fund, established in late 2014, has received donations totalling S$1.35 million, with S$1.34 million coming from the Lee Foundation in Singapore. Other donors included the American Association for Zoological Nomenclature, the Ichthyological Society of Japan and several private individuals.

The endowment will help ICZN set up a Secretariat to coordinate cases involving rules for naming animals, conflicts over scientific naming and other associated issues. The interest generated by the fund will also go towards operating the Secretariat based at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum at NUS.

Prof Peter NG, Head of the Museum and ICZN Commissioner, started the endowment fund with the strong backing of the whole Commission. He said the endowment comprising gifts from public and private benefactors worldwide represented a unique approach similar to the funding model of the Museum, which will allow ICZN to enjoy long-term operational sustainability.

Prof Ng highlighted that basing the Secretariat in Singapore has been considered 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”.

ICZN President Dr Jan VAN TOL noted, “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.”

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This article was first published on 4 January 2016 in NUS News.