The biological collections community has finalized a strategic plan to digitize and mobilize images and data associated with biological research collections.  The ten year, national effort is the product of two workshops held at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in 2010, as well as surveys of 291 federal and approximately 600 federally supported collections.

The plan outlines three key objectives: digitize data from all U.S. biological collections and make them available online in a standardized format; develop and make available new web interfaces, visualization and analysis tools, data mining, and georeferencing processes; and prevent future backlogs of digitized collections through the use of tools, training, and infrastructure.  These goals will be accomplished through the work of collections networks organized by region of the country or scientific theme, such as clade or a particular research question.  A national digitization hub will serve as “the administrative home for the digitization effort, fostering partnerships and innovations, facilitating best practice standards and workflows, serving as a repository for data and techniques, and establishing cohesion and interconnectivity among digitization projects,” according to the plan.

The final plan incorporates the comments of numerous stakeholders, including institutions holding collections, scientific societies, and others.  On 25 May 2010, the NSC Alliance endorsed the “Final Draft Strategic Plan for Establishing a National Digital Biological Collections Resource.”  In its comments on the draft plan, NSC Alliance cited the need to digitize the nation’s biological collections in order to protect the invaluable scientific knowledge contained within them.  Moreover, NSC Alliance noted that the digitization effort would also drive innovation and increase access to important scientific specimens and data.  NSC Alliance called for the support and participation, both financial and technical, of all federal agencies that maintain collections or have collections housed at non-federal facilities.

To read NSC Alliance’s comment, go to http://nscalliance.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/nsca_digitization-letter.pdf.  To read the final strategic plan, visit http://digbiocol.wordpress.com/2010/06/06/final-report-a-strategic-plan-for-establishing-a-network-integrated-collections-alliance/.