1.1. Directory to support the collections community (USE)

Surely all this is known through the enduring efforts of IH and the hard lessons learned from GRBio. In start-up mode until there’s a sustainable model, is it not more about the champion in the community who (with a small team) has the drive to see it through than it is about the feature-set, incentives, or who will use the data? Those latter considerations are all nice-to-haves but I expect most of it can be accomplished through responsive, agile development than fleshing out the requirements upfront only to later find or nominate the right team to build it.



欢迎 Welcome Honfeng-Wang. Thanks for your insights about who will benefit and the use cases for those stakeholders.

It has recognized for a long time that there is a need to develop knowledge on biodiversity in biodiverse countries, particularly in the tropics. Their collections are an important component of that. Yet these collections could remain invisible to the rest of the scientific world; unused and likely to be lost. Being part of such a directory is just one of the many things we can do to make all collections useful to science. It makes it clear that they are part of global biodiversity infrastructure.

Along the same lines one would hope that the directory would be a hub for communication about collections, such as best practices, events, funding etc.


In Hongfeng Wang’s post, he said:

The catalogue would be very beneficial for collections community, especially for policy-makers from institutions, who will need it to formulate the directions of development, to apply for funding, to convince the public of the importance of the institution, and to develop ways to attract researchers, etc.


It would also be useful, I think, to have the acronyms for these institutions and their collections included.


Yes! We don’t have a good way to leverage our collective resources right now in terms of policy, funding, etc. A catalogue is the obvious first place to start.

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Thanks @JessUtrup - Sorry if some of those acronyms were unclear - the text at the start of this page comes from the Ideas Paper where they are all spelled out and there are links to the relevant sites. I have edited this page so it expands some of these abbreviations and links either to presentations on this site or to the relevant project sites. I hope this helps.

Sorry, I was unclear. I thought it would be useful in a directory of institutions to also include their acronym. I have struggled when working with museum specimens sometimes to determine what other museums may have related material if the label only has an acronym. I would love to see a central listing of the acronyms for all institutions. For example, I work in invertebrate paleontology at the Yale Peabody Museum, so we’re YPM or YPM-IP.

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My mistake! Of course, you are most definitely correct. This has traditionally been one of the places where cataloguing efforts start as it helps curators and taxonomists make and use references to collections. It has become even more important in the digital age with such acronyms being offered as pseudo-stable identifiers in specimen records, etc.

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Such a catalogue would benefit the collections community by providing us with a sense of community and an ability to articulate that community for all sorts of reasons - funding, scope, governance, metrics, etc. It will also provide us with a much needed articulation of the non-digitized components of collections that are otherwise not articulated through digitized catalogs published to aggregators. It will also allow individual collections to contact each other and collaborate in new and exciting ways.

Should have both institutional and collection (and maybe even dataset) acronyms as well as a synonymy system to include old/orphan/unused codes. This would be useful to the collections and research communities if it provided an easy to use lookup system for acronyms to be used in publication - or even an automated system of populating a publication with a list.

Getting back to the original issue: “focus here is on the catalogue as a directory of known institutions and information required to contact them”
Having a directory of known institutions including contact details is certainly worth achieving, and has been done with Index Herbariorum. We can’t dismiss the worth of such a directory as ‘only being good for those who want to borrow material’. Managing loans, exchanges and sending specimens for destructive testing is a significant part of any collection manager’s duties.
The two points I’d like to add:

  • users need to be able to manage their own institution’s information (i.e. the directory needs to be editable)
  • if a key use case for the structure of the directory is to support collection managers then ensuring that they are involved making sure that the directory has the fields they need will be important.

Sounds similar to @elyw comment, on IT compared to collections people for choosing/using data identifiers.

Some users might not know to do directory edits, or how to choose their institutions info., acronym, etc., or it may already be done (and in differing versions/places) by others. Collections people need to be involved with data people, to report and modify (including updates and corrections) directories.

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@elyw would it not make more sense to just use an existing directory like ROR/GRID? That has almost 100.000 research organisations and most institutes are in there already. Then all you need to do is adding the institute identifier (ROR ID) to the collection descriptions and you have a list of institutes with their collections. Up to date information like the institute name, acronym, location and website is then provided as well as links to e.g. wikidata and wikipedia that can provide additional information about the institute.

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Registries like ROR will surely be the future or at least part of it. Is it ready to use now as the authority do you know? I ask because their own information suggests they are still exploring the processes around data curation and the subsequent lifecycle and we’d need to assess if the content is there now to support our needs. For example, Copenhagen Zoology Museum seemingly not registered but perhaps there are legal aspects and it falls under the university. We may need to consider if it will be accepted/adopted globally in time.

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@trobertson that is a good question. I would say yes, if you take both ROR and Grid into account. See also my blog post

ROR on its own is indeed not yet fully developed. It also does not yet have all the metadata that Grid has, but they are working on that. It does have all the records though and they keep the two in sync, at least for now. so there is a 1:1 relationship. The metadata is public domain in both. Grid is the mature brother that has the processes around data curation in place. However it is provided by a company, and may therefore not something to rely on in the long term. Therefore Ror was established, which is community driven and has a pretty strong support from the scholarly research community. I am not entirely confident about their business model though. But even if they fail or do not grow beyond providing an API on top of Grid, you can always fall back on Grid.

All institutes that are part of a RI or deliver data to a science infrastructure like GBIF can be seen as a research organization and are therefore in scope.

However some institutes do not have an identifier yet because they are part of a university that was then given the identifier. They can however ask for their own identifier and we did not experience any hurdles with that with the Synth+ partners in ELViS. Parent-child relations for organisation’s are supported.

The nat hist museum of Copenhagen is here: https://grid.ac/institutes/grid.507616.3 or https://ror.org/040ck2b86

I think Ror id was not yet synchronized back with grid but ror already got the grid id (grid is updated only every three months). They only applied for a grid identifier, a few months ago and already automatically got a Ror id.

Kind regards,


There’s also the challenge (quite familiar in the collections setting) of hierarchical relationships among organizations listed in any system like ROR or GRID.

This seems like an area where ROR is still a bit underdeveloped. @trobertson asked about the Zoological Museum; @waddink replied with the Natural History Museum: https://ror.org/040ck2b86

That’s actually the parent of ZM, one of three institutions (along with the Botanic Garden and Geological Museum). None of those three are in ROR, and the ROR record doesn’t appear to note that NHM and its constituent elements fall under the University of Copenhagen, even though GRID does: https://grid.ac/institutes/grid.507616.3

This is a simple example that ramps up significantly with, say, the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Compare its entries on ROR and GRID.

Not judging, just observing.

Hi Kyle, that is correct. We asked ROR about that a few weeks ago and they replied: ROR will include the relationships data (both parent institutes and related institutes) from GRID. The implementation work to incorporate this metadata is still in progress. See also https://github.com/ror-community/ror-api/issues/59

Would the collections community benefit from a comprehensive directory of all natural history collections?

For taxonomists, the answer to this is Yes. Taxonomists spend a lot of time researching names, creating synonymies and assembling classifications and phylogenies. I see collections in a similar light. Some collections (like some scientific names) are relatively stable over time. Other collections are renamed (creating synonyms), internally restructured, transferred whole or in part to other institutions (“new parent(s)”) or abandoned. A comprehensive directory would provide an important bench mark. And linking active collections to historical ones increases discoverability for specimens cited in the literature.

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