Geological Time Conventions and Symbols

Christie-Blick, Nicholas

All science involves conventions. Although subordinate to the task of figuring out how the natural world functions, such conventions are necessary for clear communication, and because they are a matter of choice rather than discovery, they ought to reflect the diverse preferences and needs of the communities for which they are intended. A short article published recently in both Pure and Applied Chemistry and Episodes (Holden et al., 2011a, 2011b) sets out to rationalize the definition and symbols for units of time for use in nuclear chemistry and the earth and planetary sciences. Given that the authors are members of a task group established jointly by the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), and that publication was approved by both bodies, one might reasonably assume that the recommendations reflect a workable consensus. Regrettably, they don't. They will be widely ignored in North America. How could the peer review system fail so badly in this case? What needs to be done?



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