Inform the Future, Share Your Thoughts with the BCoN Advisory Council

The Advisory Council for the Biodiversity Collections Network is undertaking a review of the Strategic and Implementation Plan for the Network Integrated Biocollections Alliance. The purpose of this review is to evaluate progress made to date and to identify potential gaps in these plans and priorities for future initiatives. To inform this review, the Advisory Council would like to hear from the community.

The Strategic Plan set the biocollections community in the United States on a 10-year course to digitize and mobilize the scientific information associated with biological specimens held in U.S. research collections. The Implementation Plan published in 2013 included six recommendations for realizing the Network Integrated Biocollections Alliance. These recommendations are:

  1. Establish an organizational and governance structure that will provide the national leadership and decision-making mechanism required to implement NIBA and to fully realize its Strategic Plan.
  2. Advance engineering of the US biocollections cyberinfrastructure.
  3. Enhance the training of existing collections staff and create the next generation of biodiversity information managers.
  4. Increase support for and participation in NIBA by the research community and a broad spectrum of stakeholders.
  5. Establish an enduring and sustainable knowledge base.
  6. Infuse specimen-based learning and exploration into formal and informal education.

For more detail on these recommendations, please refer to the Strategic and Implementations Plans.

The Advisory Council would appreciate hearing community perspectives on the following:

  • Are these recommendations still appropriate?
  • Are there items that were not included in the plan that should have been?
  • Are there items that have been completely or partially addressed by existing initiatives or groups? What are these and which goals do they specifically address?
  • Have needs emerged that should be considered if the NIBA is to be achieved?
  • Are you aware of new partnerships or collaborations with non-traditional users of biocollections?
  • General thoughts and recommendations.


  1. Regarding Goal 6: “Infuse specimen-based learning and exploration into formal and informal education.” We believe this goal is still extremely relevant and is vital in promoting accessibility to collections.

    The iDigBio Working Group ARPO (Augmented Reality for Public Outreach) is a collaborative effort in the development of an innovative learning app based on the foundation and principles of NIBA’s goal 6. 15 TCNs (Thematic Collection Network) are currently involved in the research and development of a series of augmented reality Flashcards which will feature specimens from each TCN and their data. Users can interact and engage with 3D specimens as if holding in their hand—something the public would not ordinarily be able to do with real specimens hidden in a collection tray or behind glass.

    The learning app/tool will be implemented in both formal and informal settings with the long term goal of conducting formal assessments as to its impact in STEM learning. The project is a partnership between iDigBio and the Biota3D Lab at the Arizona State University Natural History collections.

  2. Two things that NIBA should continue to investigate:
    – how to engage reluctant collections. It might be useful to compile a list of all of the collections that are participating in the TCN’s. What collections are not on that list that, given the emphasis of the TCNs, should be? Are any of them major repositories? Are there any factors that can be discerned that might explain their absence?
    – we will need a mechanism to locate funding for large collections to complete digitization of the portions of their collections that are beyond the scope of TCN projects. As an example for herbaria, the community is doing well in getting some groups mostly or entirely covered (lichens, bryophytes, algae, macrofungi), but a similar comprehensive effort in the flowering plants is far too large for a TCN proposal.

    1. Rich

      This is exactly what GRBio is trying to achieve. I was recently at a GRBio workshop to look at ways of increasing the data contained in the existing resource – scavenging data from IPT providers to create stub records, tapping other lists like discipline specific lists and others. However, I think that SPNHC has a huge role to play here as we are the community of collections professionals looking after these resources. One mechanism that I envisage is members of SPNHC could take ownership of their part of the world and facilitate the entry of collections data for the collections in that area. It is clear that relying on the collections themselves to self enter this data is not working and we need a more community based approach. Hopefully there will be more information coming from GRBio in this regard as they look toward GRBio 2.0.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *