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National Identity and International Science: the Case of Acacia
University of South Africa.
2012 (English)In: Historical Records of Australian Science, ISSN 0727-3061, Vol. 23, no 1, 34-54 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The article considers the role that history and botanical politics played during the nomenclatural debates surrounding the decision taken at the XVII International Botanical Congress (IBC) in Vienna in 2005 to conserve the genus Acacia with the type A. penninervis, an acacia from the Australian group, and the confirmation of this decision at the XVIII IBC in Melbourne in 2011. What was unusual about this issue was that it was contested in the public media as well as in professional botanical circles. It also resulted in fierce critiques about how the processes of international botany should operate. Many natural scientists strongly believe that their disciplines are objective and untainted by influences outside 'science', yet this recent example from international botany shows how politics in science, and scientific politics, may cast a long shadow over scientific decisions. In terms of external influences on science, we provide an overview of the competitive claims to Acacia as a national symbol in Australia and Africa that fuelled some of the discussion. We present some of the 'compromise proposals' that were circulated in advance of the Melbourne meeting and describe that meeting, focusing on the implications of the Acacia decision for the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature. We reflect on the complex role played by national identity and emotional passion for plants that has been revealed, while also highlighting how this experience has encouraged many botanists around the world to scrutinize more carefully how their international bodies function and to suggest changes and improvements.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. Vol. 23, no 1, 34-54 p.
Keyword [en]
Acacia, International Association for Plant Taxonomy (IAPT), International Botanical Congress 2011, International Code of Botanical Nomenclature, national botanical symbols, nomenclature, Racosperma, Senegalia, Vachellia
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-93103DOI: 10.1071/HR12002ISI: 000303918500002OAI: diva2:514964

QC 20130514

Available from: 2012-04-11 Created: 2012-04-11 Last updated: 2013-05-14Bibliographically approved

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Robin, Libby
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