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A retrospective (from Latin retrospectare, "look back"), generally, is a look back at events that took place, or works that were produced, in the past. As a noun, retrospective has specific meanings in medicine, software development, popular culture and the arts. It is applied as an adjective, synonymous with the term retroactive , to laws, standards, and awards.



A medical retrospective is an examination of a patient's medical history and lifestyle.

A retrospective exhibition presents works from an extended period of an artist's activity. Similarly, a retrospective compilation album is assembled from a recording artist's past material, usually their greatest hits. A television or newsstand special about an actor, politician, or other celebrity will present a retrospective of the subject's career highlights. A leading (usually elderly) academic may be honored with a Festschrift, an honorary book of articles or a lecture series relating topically to a retrospective of the honoree's career. Celebrity roasts good-naturedly mock the career of the guest of honor, often in a retrospective format.


A retrospective or retroactive award is one which is created and then awarded to persons who would have received it before. Alternatively, a slight change to the criteria of an existing award may result in retrospective awards being presented to persons who would have won the award under present rules. Comparatively few awards are presented retrospectively.


The term is used in situations where the law (statutory, civil, or regulatory) is changed or reinterpreted, affecting acts committed before the alteration. When such changes make a previously committed lawful act now unlawful in a retroactive manner, this is known as an ex post facto law or retroactive law. Because such laws punish the accused for acts that were not unlawful when committed, they are rare, and not permissible in most legal systems. More commonly, changes retroactively worsen the legal consequences (or status) of actions that were committed, or relationships that existed, by bringing it into a more severe category than it was in when it was committed; by changing the punishment or recompense prescribed, as by adding new penalties, extending sentences, or increasing fines and damages payable; or it may alter the rules of evidence in order to make exoneration more difficult than it would have been.

Conversely, a form of retrospective law commonly called an amnesty law may decriminalize certain acts. A pardon has a similar effect, in a specific case instead of a class of cases. An in mitius change may alleviate possible consequences for unlawful acts (for example by replacing the death sentence with lifelong imprisonment) retroactively. Finally, when a previous law is repealed or otherwise nullified, it is no longer applicable to situations to which it had been, even if such situations arose before the law was voided; this principle is known as nullum crimen, nulla poena sine praevia lege poenali .

Software development

The term is also used in software engineering, where a retrospective is a meeting held by a project team at the end of a project or process (often after an iteration) to discuss what was successful about the project or time period covered by that retrospective, what could be improved, and how to incorporate the successes and improvements in future iterations or projects. Retrospective can be done in many different ways.

In agile development, retrospectives play a very important role in iterative and incremental development. At the end of every iteration a retrospective is held to look for ways to improve the process for the next iteration. Scrum call this the Sprint Retrospective.


In the context of scientific and technical standards, retrospectivity applies current norms to material that pre-dates new rules. An example of a retrospective or retroactive standard is the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN Code), a convention which governs the formal scientific naming of animals, of which the 4th edition is effective since 2000. All previous editions of the ICZN Code, or previous other rules and conventions are disregarded today, [1] and the scientific names published in former times are to be evaluated only under the present edition of the ICZN Code.

See also

Related Research Articles

Binomial nomenclature System of identifying species of organisms using a two-part name

Binomial nomenclature, also called binominal nomenclature or binary nomenclature, is a formal system of naming species of living things by giving each a name composed of two parts, both of which use Latin grammatical forms, although they can be based on words from other languages. Such a name is called a binomial name, a binomen, binominal name or a scientific name; more informally it is also called a Latin name.

The International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) is a widely accepted convention in zoology that rules the formal scientific naming of organisms treated as animals. It is also informally known as the ICZN Code, for its publisher, the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. The rules principally regulate:

Subspecies Taxonomic rank subordinate to species

In biological classification, the term subspecies refers to one of two or more populations of a species living in different subdivisions of the species' range and varying from one another by morphological characteristics. A single subspecies cannot be recognized independently: a species is either recognized as having no subspecies at all or at least two, including any that are extinct. The term may be abbreviated to subsp. or ssp. The plural is the same as the singular: subspecies.

An ex post facto law is a law that retroactively changes the legal consequences of actions that were committed, or relationships that existed, before the enactment of the law. In criminal law, it may criminalize actions that were legal when committed; it may aggravate a crime by bringing it into a more severe category than it was in when it was committed; it may change the punishment prescribed for a crime, as by adding new penalties or extending sentences; or it may alter the rules of evidence in order to make conviction for a crime likelier than it would have been when the deed was committed.

<i>International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants</i> Code of scientific nomenclature

The International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN) is the set of rules and recommendations dealing with the formal botanical names that are given to plants, fungi and a few other groups of organisms, all those "traditionally treated as algae, fungi, or plants". It was formerly called the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN); the name was changed at the International Botanical Congress in Melbourne in July 2011 as part of the Melbourne Code which replaced the Vienna Code of 2005.

Type (biology) Specimen(s) to which a scientific name is formally attached

In biology, a type is a particular specimen of an organism to which the scientific name of that organism is formally attached. In other words, a type is an example that serves to anchor or centralize the defining features of that particular taxon. In older usage, a type was a taxon rather than a specimen.

The International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) is an organization dedicated to "achieving stability and sense in the scientific naming of animals". Founded in 1895, it currently comprises 27 members from 19 countries, mainly practicing zoological taxonomists.

A tautonym is a scientific name of a species in which both parts of the name have the same spelling, for example Rattus rattus. The first part of the name is the name of the genus and the second part is referred to as the specific epithet in the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants and the specific name in the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature.

Nomenclature codes or codes of nomenclature are the various rulebooks that govern biological taxonomic nomenclature, each in their own broad field of organisms. To an end-user who only deals with names of species, with some awareness that species are assignable to families, it may not be noticeable that there is more than one code, but beyond this basic level these are rather different in the way they work.

In zoological nomenclature, author citation refers to listing the person who first makes a scientific name of a taxon available. This is done in a scientific publication while fulfilling the formal requirements under the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, hereinafter termed "the Code". According to the Code, "the name of the author does not form part of the name of a taxon and its citation is optional, although customary and often advisable", however Recommendation 51A suggests: "The original author and date of a name should be cited at least once in each work dealing with the taxon denoted by that name. This is especially important in distinguishing between homonyms and in identifying species-group names which are not in their original combinations". For the purpose of information retrieval, the author citation and year appended to the scientific name, e.g. genus-species-author-year, genus-author-year, family-author-year, etc., is often considered a "de facto" unique identifier, although for a number of reasons discussed below, this usage may often be imperfect.

In zoological nomenclature, the valid name of a taxon is the zoological name that is to be used for that taxon following the rules in the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN). In other words: a valid name is the correct zoological name of a taxon.

A conserved name or nomen conservandum is a scientific name that has specific nomenclatural protection. Nomen conservandum is a Latin term, meaning "a name to be conserved". The terms are often used interchangeably, such as by the International Code of Nomenclature for Algae, Fungi, and Plants (ICN), while the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature favours the term "conserved name".

A nomen oblitum is a technical term, used in zoological nomenclature, for a particular kind of disused scientific name.

Paratype taxonomic term

In zoology and botany, a paratype is a specimen of an organism that helps define what the scientific name of a species and other taxon actually represents, but it is not the holotype. Often there is more than one paratype. Paratypes are usually held in museum research collections.

In biological nomenclature, a nomen novum, new replacement name is a technical term. It indicates a scientific name that is created specifically to replace another scientific name, but only when this other name cannot be used for technical, nomenclatural reasons ; it does not apply when a name is changed for taxonomic reasons. It is frequently abbreviated, e.g.nomen nov., nom. nov..

In scientific nomenclature, a synonym is a scientific name that applies to a taxon that (now) goes by a different scientific name, although the term is used somewhat differently in the zoological code of nomenclature. For example, Linnaeus was the first to give a scientific name to the Norway spruce, which he called Pinus abies. This name is no longer in use: it is now a synonym of the current scientific name, Picea abies.

ZooBank open access website, official ICZN taxonomic registry

ZooBank is an open access website intended to be the official International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) registry of zoological nomenclature. Any nomenclatural acts need to be registered with ZooBank to be "officially" recognized by the ICZN Code of Nomenclature.

AnimalBase is a project brought to life in 2004 and is maintained by the University of Göttingen, Germany. The goal of the AnimalBase project is to digitize early zoological literature, provide copyright-free open access to zoological works, and provide manually verified lists of names of zoological genera and species as a free resource for the public. AnimalBase contributed to opening up the classical taxonomic literature, which is considered as useful because access to early literature can be difficult for researchers who need the old sources for their taxonomic research.

<i>Svenska Spindlar</i> book by Carl Alexander Clerck

The book Svenska Spindlar or Aranei Svecici was one of the major works of the Swedish arachnologist and entomologist Carl Alexander Clerck and appeared in Stockholm in the year 1757. It was the first comprehensive book on the spiders of Sweden and one of the first regional monographs of a group of animals worldwide. The full title of the work was Svenska Spindlar uti sina hufvud-slägter indelte samt under några och sextio särskildte arter beskrefne och med illuminerade figurer uplysteAranei Svecici, descriptionibus et figuris æneis illustrati, ad genera subalterna redacti, speciebus ultra LX determinati, and included 162 pages of text and 6 colour plates. It was published in Swedish, with a Latin translation printed in a slightly smaller font below the Swedish text.

In botanical nomenclature, a validly published name is a name that meets the requirements in the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants for valid publication. Valid publication of a name represents the minimum requirements for a botanical name to exist: terms that appear to be names but have not been validly published are referred to in the ICN as "designations".