A Strategic Plan for Establishing a Network Integrated Biocollections Alliance

  • Beach J
  • Blum S
  • Donoghue M
 et al. 
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Abstract

This report is a strategic plan for a 10-year effort to digitize and mobilize the scientific information associ- ated with biological specimens held in U.S. research collections. The primary objective of the initiative is to create a national collections resource that will con- tribute critical information to U.S. scientific research and technology interests, and will aid in understanding the biodiversity dimensions and societal consequences of climate change, species invasions, natural disasters, the spread of disease vectors and agricultural pests and pollinators, and other environmental issues. Network Integrated Biocollections Alliance (NIBA) resources such as databases, network portals, and analytical tools will synthesize information contained in the nations collections and place them into national service for stakeholders in government, academia, business, K-12 education, informal science education, and the public. Biological collections across the U.S. are united by over two centuries of common purpose in research vi- Michael A. Mares sion, curatorial methods, and field protocols. Digitiz- ing the nations collections represents a grand chal- lenge that will require development of technical and human resources, such as automated workflows, a ro- bust data publishing and error-checking infrastructure and professionals networked to support the creation of an enduring digital alliance of collections institutions. These challenges can be addressed, in partnership with federal agency and other stakeholders, in order to create an organizational structure and processes that reflect the long-standing biological collection commu- nity values of inclusiveness, scientific empowerment and open data access, while allocating credit to data owners and editors. Digitization of biological specimens will take place within the nations collections facilities, which will be organized into networks having shared interests in geographic scope, taxonomic research domain, or specimen preservation type. These collaborations will be supported by a national digitization hub, whose re- sponsibility will be to assure the successful implemen- tation of the collaborative and inclusive digitization vi- sion. The digitization hub will: establish collaboration protocols for consensus-based decision making among collections; proactively form working relationships and synergies with U.S. and international partners; grow scientific and collection institutional engagement; oversee new digitization technology development; establish protocols for ensuring data quality and proper crediting of data owners and editors; prioritize digitization efforts based on advice from stakeholders, oversight committees, and collections professionals; and define metrics for measuring progress against explicit goals while also reporting progress to all stakeholders. This strategic plan is the outcome of a deliberative community process that has included surveys of 291 federal and ~600 federally supported collections (see reports referenced in Appendix II), along with multiple work- shops. These have recently included community engagement meetings on Future Directions in Biodiversity and Systematics Research, and an NSF-funded Research Coordination Network meeting entitled Collections Data Integration. Directed planning activities began with a workshop held at the National Evolutionary Syn- thesis Center (NESCent) on February 5-7, 2010. The product of that first meeting was an outline for the digiti- zation plan. Input from the community further shaped the vision, and a second workshop at NESCent on 28-30 April provided the input and guidance for this strategic plan.

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Authors

  • J Beach

  • S Blum

  • M Donoghue

  • L Ford

  • R Guralnick

  • M Mares

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