A strategic plan is being developed for a 10-year, national effort to digitize and mobilize images and data associated with biological research collections.  The plan aims to create a publicly available, comprehensive collections resource that will increase access to biological collections across the country.  The plan was drafted by workshop participants at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in February 2010.

The strategic plan is seen as “a grand challenge” and will be undertaken “as a unified mission involving a coordinated funding program and well designed strategy for execution.”  The plan calls for the development of cyberinfrastructure “to promote efficient and standard capture and mobilization of these data to make the national biological collections resource publicly available for analysis.”

The plan has several goals for the digitization effort:

  • Making images and data from all U.S. biological collections available in an integrated, web accessible interface using shared standards and formats.
  • Developing and launching new web interfaces, visualization and analysis tools, data mining, image analysis, and georeferencing processes.
  • Digitizing and web mobilizing the existing backlog of non-digitized collections, and developing tools, training, and infrastructure to prevent the reoccurrence of such a backlog.

These goals would be accomplished by a three tiered approach.

  1. Develop a coordinated effort to provide technological support for the nationwide collections digitization effort, to organize new efforts with existing collections-based projects and international efforts, and to disseminate standards, techniques and best practices.
  2. Develop a network of regional collaborations for collection digitization across the U.S.
  3. Develop investigator-driven and cross-regional collaborations driven by the specific needs of collections of a particular clade or preservation type, or motivated by a particular scientific question to be addressed by the use of collections images and data.

Feedback on the strategic plan from the collections community is sought and can be made on the plan’s website (http://digbiocol.wordpress.com/) or by sending an email to wg-digitization@nescent.org.  Group feedback based on institutional priorities or taxon-based needs is welcomed.  Specific feedback is needed in areas such as support for the proposed model, suggestions for revision, ideas regarding the three-tiered approach, priorities for collection digitization, and ways to maximize collaboration across institutions and federal agencies, and at the international level.  This feedback will be aggregated and provided to participants in future planning sessions that will develop a final strategic plan.