SURVEY: Harnessing Biodiversity Collections Data for Addressing National Challenges

This survey is intended to elicit information for a stakeholder vision of how to maximize the value of biodiversity collections data for collections management, research and education in the future. BCoN is coordinating the development of this vision in response to requests from NSF and others to inform the development of a new funding program to succeed NSF’s current ADBC program. The effort will culminate in a workshop in October 2018 where we will consolidate the feedback into a strategic plan for 2020-2030. The strategic plan, to be issued in early 2019, will be available for public comment and edited accordingly before it is finalized.

Hopefully this strategic plan will provide a framework for a new NSF funding program, much as the Network for Integrated Biocollections Alliance Strategic Plan (NIBA) influenced the original development of Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections (ADBC) funding program, which began in 2011. Since that time, ADBC has funded 20 Thematic Collection Networks (TCNs), which are collaborative digitization projects focused on a particular set of research questions. Collectively the TCNs have digitized specimens from 561 collections held in 336 institutions and has provided training and work experience for a broad range of students and emerging professionals. The ADBC program has also provided continual support to University of Florida and Florida State University for hosting Integrated Digitized BioCollections (iDigBio;DBI-1115210; DBI-1547229), the organizing unit for the digitization effort. iDigBio provides training in digitization, data mobilization and the use of collections data in research and education, and shares digitized data through its iDigBio Portal that has over 105 million specimen records and 22 million media records from 1650 record sets.

Additionally, NSF has funded a number of recent initiatives that make use of the data generated through ADBC and address the goals of the NIBA plan. These include, but are not limited to the following: Biodiversity Literacy in Undergraduate Education (BLUE; DBI 1730526), BiotaPhy (DBI 1458466), Kurator (DBI 1356438, DBI 1356751), Morphosource (DBI- 1661386), the Paleobiology Database Project (PBDB; EAR 0949416), and The Whole Tale (OAC 1541450).

3 comments:

  1. One potential problem is over-emphasis on funding digitization projects at the expense of programs that support collections management, collections governance and basic skills development in curation.

  2. One thing that some of us have been discussing is the relative needs of larger vs. smaller collections. Initially, it would have been most efficient for ADBC to focus on digitizing the largest collections from the standpoint of accumulating the most specimen data and images in the shortest time for the least money, but this would have come at the expense of creating a unified museum community. The result, however, is that many of the largest collections have been involved with multiple TCNs and have a patchwork of digitization with significant holes affecting important specimen coverage. At the other extreme, there is still a residue of mainly smaller collections that have not benefitted directly from any TCN, despite iDigBio’s wonderful efforts to stimulate participation among smaller collections. This is a difficult problem to solve.

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