We are only just beginning to appreciate the role of natural history collections data in addressing today’s global wicked problems. The extent of data providers, curators, and end users is yet to be fully realized, and the data and analysis tools to actualize the potential of this emerging data resource are in their infancy. Regional efforts will benefit from global partnership yet the potential for a fully actualized global database stands as a challenge to the natural sciences collection community.
By their very nature, specimen databases lend themselves to being integrated for interoperable functions. This is the crux of the extended and digital specimen concepts. Analytical tools with the ability to combine and exploit novel and traditional types of data are enabling novel research on topics ranging from phenology, genotype-phenotype interactions, host-parasite interactions, epidemiological studies, broad comparative phylogenetic analyses, human health applications and linkages between the biological and physical world across different time scales.
The complexities associated with creatively serving these data present an area of active advancement. However, the quality of data is critically tied to the resources and expertise available to institutions to catalog specimens, and to manage and maintain databases. Education of the next generation of collections workers needs to encompass both traditional collections work and to include training to help build and manage these ever-evolving data assets.
This thread seeks to build further from known uses of collections data and to ask:
- What are the emerging areas of research, management, policy, industry and education that are drawing on novel uses of collections data?
- What approaches are needed to better serve data in a consistent manner for novel users and end uses?
- How can we provide the training necessary for data gatherers, providers, curators and end users?
- How can we better engage and support data providers and users from under-represented parts of the globe and improve worldwide access to data and training?
- What tools are necessary to support novel applications?
This category is for those interested in discussing innovations of specimen data use discovery, data mining, data analysis, impediments to broad-scale open use, data management, best-practices for diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, tools for data users, training across all levels, and expanding the community of data providers and data users.
This category specifically deals with the end users, existing and potential needs and systems to sustain usage, and planning for innovation and novel data usage.
This category is about realizing the full potential of the extended/digital specimen concepts for the innovative use of biodiversity data to the broadest community of users for addressing a wide diversity of research questions.
GBIF Science Reports (Science Review)
Meineke, E. K., T. J. Davies, B. H. Daru and C. C. Davis. Biological collections for understanding biodiversity in the Anthropocene. 2018. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2017.0386https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rstb.2017.0386
AK Monfils, ER Krimmel, JM Bates, JE Bauer, MW Belitz, BC Cahill, AM Caywood, NS Cobb, JB Colby, SA Ellis, DM Krejsa, TD Levine, TD Marsico, TJ Mayfield-Meyer, J A Miller-Camp, RM Nelson, MA Phillips, MA Revelez, DR Roberts, R A Singer, J M Zaspel, Regional Collections Are an Essential Component of Biodiversity Research Infrastructure, BioScience, Volume 70, Issue 12, December 2020, Pages 1045–1047, https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biaa102
Additional relevant resources can be found here: Biodiversity Crisis Response and Conservation Resources - SPNHC Wiki
Questions to promote discussion
- What commonalities exist among research projects that have successfully used collections data?
- In what ways do existing databases, data portals, and tools support broad use of data?
- How are current methods of outreach successfully engaging new communities?
- How do the extended/digital specimen (ES/DS) concepts help to address making specimen data widely usable for novel applications? What are the low hanging fruits of the ES/DS, in terms of novel applications, that we can work on now? And what are the biggest obstacles to adoption of the ES/DS concepts?
- How do we engage end-users in a virtuous cycle of improvement to fill gaps (e.g., taxonomic, spatial, temporal, institutional), add data layers (especially derived ones) and build linkages between the existing data?
- What assumptions are we making when designing databases and data standards for a global community? How do we thoughtfully promote, enhance and implement improvements from new users?
- How do we avoid losing sight of basic efforts (e.g., taxonomic research) that have to underpin using these data for novel applications?