In historic votes at the XVIII International Botanical Congress in July 2011 in Melbourne, Australia, amendments to the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (the Code; now the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants) were accepted to recognize effective publication in electronic media and to remove the requirement for a Latin diagnosis or description for names of new taxa for effective publication. These changes come into effect on 1 January 2012, and the resulting changes to publication requirements are outlined in Knapp et al. (2011).

How will the changes to the Code affect the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, its authors and readers? Here we discuss the extent to which the journal is now accessed predominantly in electronic form and the extent to which the journal includes the publication of new taxa, putting the changes to the Code in context.

The Linnean Society has a publishing history reaching back to 1791, and in 2010, an average of approximately 9000 institutions took each of the three Linnean Society journals. Of these institutions less than 0.3% are reliant on printed copies, reflecting a global move towards electronic publishing. The same is true of the three individual journals. Accessibility and discoverability of the scientific record are important functions of any publishing venture for the research community, and in today's world they can be best achieved in the online environment. This is especially important in the developing world; the Linnean Society journals are available online to qualifying countries through the Research4Life ( and INASP ( initiatives, and more than 40% of institutions with access to the journals come through the philanthropic route.

With electronic publishing comes an obligation to archive and preserve the scientific record for future generations. Many publishers foresaw this need and have been working in close collaboration with libraries around the world for several years. The Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society is, with its sister journals, archived through several programmes including CLOCKSS (

Knowing that what is being read is the definitive and final version is imperative. A paper published online (but see comment below about lack of pagination in papers published in ‘Early View’) in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society is exactly the same as that published in print, while print exists. Errata or corrigenda are published separately, referencing the original article. In the online environment there is the added advantage that the correction and the paper are forward and backward linked, enabling the reader to see both documents together. Critical to nomenclatural works is the date of publication; this will be included within the published article.

For several years, there has been a move away from publishing new taxa in isolation in this journal, and the guidelines to authors state that ‘the journal will only publish new taxa in exceptional circumstances as part of larger monographic or phylogenetic revisions’ ( The advent of new journals such as Phytotaxa (Christenhusz et al., 2009), specifically focused on the rapid publication of new taxonomic matter, means that authors are also moving towards publication of new species in journals of that type. Despite this, some descriptions have appeared (see, e.g., Robinson et al., 2009; Christenhusz, 2010; Groeninckx et al., 2010) and will continue to appear in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, and the changes to the Code will thus continue to have an effect on this journal, in terms of setting a policy on electronic publication and the use of Latin.

Electronic publication would only apply to papers in the journal if these were made available in ‘Early View’ (i.e. an online version published before inclusion in an issue) in their final form. However, ‘Early View’ papers lack the final pagination, and therefore they are not in their final form. To avoid problems in this regard, we have made the decision that accepted papers including description of new taxa will not be made available in ‘Early View’ (at least until such time as this discrepancy between the two versions is resolved). Currently, the time from acceptance to print publication is approximately three months, and this decision will not cause a major delay in new names being available; we consider that any minor delay is compensated for by the removal of the possibility for confusion over the publication date, particularly when a manuscript accepted late in one calendar year is not published in its final version until the beginning of the following year. We will review this policy from time to time as electronic publication becomes more established.

If authors opt in favour of providing Latin descriptions and diagnoses, we will continue to publish these, once they have been checked by the editor responsible for Latin. However, we encourage authors who are not confident in their ability to write botanical Latin to use English only. Whichever language is used, authors are required to include a diagnosis, i.e. ‘a statement of that which in the opinion of its author distinguishes the taxon from others’ (Article 32.2 of the Vienna Code;, in addition to a full description of the new taxon in English.

We look forward to working with authors in the implementation of these new developments.


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We thank Sandy Knapp and Philip Oswald for their helpful comments.


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  • Christenhusz MJM, Chase MW, Fay MF, Lumbsch T, Monro A, Vorontsova M, Zhang Z-Q. 2009. A new international journal for rapid publication of botanical taxonomy. Phytotaxa 1: 12.
  • Christenhusz MJM. 2010. Danaea (Marattiaceae) revisited: biodiversity, a new classification and ten new species of a neotropical fern genus. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 163: 360385.
  • Groeninckx I, De Block P, Robbrecht E, Smets EE, Dessein S. 2010. Amphistemon and Thamnoldenlandia, two new genera of Rubiaceae (Spermacoceae) endemic to Madagascar. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 163: 447472.
  • Knapp S, McNeill J, Turland NJ. 2011. Changes to publication requirements made at the XVIII International Botanical Congress in Melbourne – what does e-publication mean for you? Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 167: 133136.
  • Robinson AS, Fleischmann AS, Mcpherson SR, Heinrich VB, Gironella EP, Peña CQ. 2009. A spectacular new species of Nepenthes L. (Nepenthaceae) pitcher plant from central Palawan, Philippines. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 159: 95202.