Procedures used to define an international chronostratigraphic stage boundary and to locate and ratify a Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP) are outlined. A majority of current GSSPs use biostratigraphic data as primary markers with no reference to any physicochemical markers, despite the International Subcommission on Stratigraphic Classification (ISSC) suggestion that such markers should be included if possible. It is argued that such definitions will not produce the high-precision Phanerozoic time scale necessary to understand such phenomena as pre-Pleistocene ice ages and global climate change. It is strongly recommended that all GSSPs should have physico-chemical markers as an integral part of their guiding criteria, and where such markers cannot be found, the GSSP should be relocated.
The methods and approach embodied in oceanic stratigraphy – coring, logging, analysing and archiving of drill sites by numerous experts using a wide range of methods – could usefully serve as a scientific model for the analysis and archiving of GSSPs, all of which are on the present-day continents. The incorporation of many more stratigraphic sections into GSSP studies, the application of physico-chemical methods, and the replacement of old U–Pb dates by newer CA-TIMS U–Pb dates, together with the use of constrained optimization (CONOP) programs that produce a calendar of events from many sections, should lead to much more precise timescales for pre-Cenozoic time than are currently available.