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Organizing Mycology

Organizing Mycology

Questions, and quizzical or glazed expressions, are not unfamiliar amongst audiences of mycologists when the acronyms or names of committees and organizations start to be banded about as if everyone should instinctively know what they were and what they did. In order to alleviate this situation, Andrew Miller (Secretary, International Commission on the Taxonomy of Fungi, ICTF) has produced a helpful diagram for the ICTF webpage ( which is reproduced here.

figure 1

The overarching body concerned with the promotion of science internationally is ICSU: the International Council of Science, established in 1931, and named the International Council of Scientific Unions until the name was changed in 1998. The mission of ICSU is to strengthen international science for the benefit of society, through the mobilization of knowledge and resources. ICSU is supported financially by national scientific members, that is national academies, research councils, or equivalents, currently representing 140 countries. In addition it has 31 scientific unions as members, of which two are of major importance to mycologists: (1) the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS) formed long before ICSU itself in 1919 and now with 40 national and 80 scientific members; and (2) the International Union of Microbiological Societies (IUMS) which was formed in 1980 after separation from IUBS, to which microbiological organizations had previously adhered.

The IMA is a scientific member of IUBS, as is the International Association for Lichenology (IAL), International Society for Mushroom Science (ISMS), and the International Society for Plant Pathology (ISPP). IUBS includes all organizations involved with the regulation of the naming of eukaryotes, including those responsible for the six-yearly International Botanical Congresses, the first of which was held in 1865, and at which the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN) is revised. That Congress appoints the Nomenclature Committee for Fungi (NCF) to rule and advise on all aspects of fungal nomenclature. IUMS has three divisions, one of which is the Division of Mycology, and that has several Commissions devoted to topics in mycology, as indicated in the diagram, and to which the International Society for Human and Animal Mycology (ISHAM) adheres.

It is also possible to have inter-union bodies, and the ICTF is one of these. The ICTF complements the NCF in dealing with taxonomic rather than nomenclatural issues, for example in relation to the development of good practice and the establishment of Subcommissions focussing on different groups of fungi, but is currently working closely with the NCF on the development of lists of fungal names to be accorded special protection or to be suppressed. A second example of an interunion body of interest to mycologists is the World Federation for Culture Collections (WFCC).

For further information on the history and roles of all the bodies mentioned here, and full lists of the different societies and other organizations that adhere to them, explore the pertinent web pages, which may prove a fascinating insight into the world of bioorganization.

The issue of having mycology represented within two ICSU unions may seem strange, and indeed this has been a matter of some discussion at various times in the past (Simmons 2010). However, while this situation may not be optimal, and surely merits revisiting at some future date, it currently creates few practical problems and the IMA and IUMS now endeavour to operate synergistically wherever appropriate for the good of mycology.


  • Simmons EG (2010) The International Mycological Association: its history in brief with summaries of its International Mycological Congresses and diverse international relationships. IMA Fungus 1: 18–100.

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Hawksworth, D.L. Organizing Mycology. IMA Fungus 3, A1 (2012).

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