1.5. Increased value for data on specimens, taxonomic publications, etc. (USE)

This is topic 1.5. in the Uses section of the Advancing the Catalogue of the World’s Natural History Collections consultation. Use this topic to discuss the questions listed below.

Accurate information on any collection can be used as a reference or as linked data associated with specimen records and other data objects. Users of specimen records need contextual information about the collection that holds the specimen, for example to communicate with collection managers about individual specimens, to offer corrections to specimen data, or simply to determine whether the collection is likely to hold quantities of similar specimens. It may be inefficient to embed all of this information within the specimen record. Holding a single authoritative copy assists with keeping the collection information current. The collection record may also contain information on taxonomic or geographic scope or other aspects that can resolve potential ambiguities within a specimen record. Links to current collection records will also enhance taxonomic publications referencing their materials. This is particularly important because catalogue numbers and other specimen identifiers used in publications may not link to digitised information on the specimens. Linking to the collection simplifies future access and may enable digital links to be inferred in future.

Other materials

The following contributed materials are particularly relevant to this topic:


  • How could a comprehensive collections catalogue contribute to improvements to other categories of biodiversity data?
  • What requirements would these improvements place on the catalogue?
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How could a comprehensive collections catalogue contribute to improvements to other categories of biodiversity data?

For example, in a field that offers a collection a chance to share major known collectors associated with their organization, IF they use ORCID ID or #wikidata Q numbers, then automated services can be used to link the information in ORCID and Wikidata back to collections’ Agents tables, and vice versa.

If taxonomic groups are shared similarly (with counts and links to CoL+ GUIDS) then we can better understand what makes each collection unique, and better understand what we have (don’t have) collectively.

I think the preservation of any biological material is very important, not only for genetic analysis. Of course this information differs for each specimen/sample and it changes over time, but a general information on how specimens or samples are stored might be valuable, e.g. at stable temperatures, frozen, in alcohol etc.

Responding to the prompt: “How could a comprehensive collections catalogue contribute to improvements to other categories of biodiversity data?” It’s not clear to me that an institution or individual’s internal definitions and descriptions of collections provide a scientifically meaningful unit of aggregation for specimen records or metadata. For example, specimens associated with a sampling event may often reside in multiple collections within an institution but will also often represent only a small subset of what’s in each of those collections. I do recognize the point about using collections metadata to resolve ambiguities in specimen references, though.

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I consider this very important to make visible collections from our countries, I am from Colombia, that do not yet have online catalogs or our onlines resources are in spanish. We have important collections that harbor an important part of the tropical diversity of plants, mushrooms and animals. In Colombia, for example, many collections in the same institution depend on a researcher and they do not share resources or efforts