COVID-19 Impacts on Biodiversity Science Collections

The Natural Science Collections Alliance, American Institute of Biological Sciences, Biodiversity Collections Network (BCoN), and Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC) surveyed individuals affiliated with US biodiversity science collections to better understand the effects of COVID-19 related disruptions and closures on biodiversity research and education collections, and the people who use and care for these scientific resources. Read about the results from the surveys below.

COVID-19 Impacts on Biodiversity Science Collections:

Operational Status, Economic Impacts, and Plans for Re-Opening:

BioScience Special Collection on Natural History Collections

The journal BioScience now has a special collection of articles available that highlights some of the exciting new ways scientists and educators are mobilizing and using biodiversity data from natural history collections.

Natural History Collections: Advancing the Frontiers of Science:

Biodiversity Collections Network

The National Science Foundation has supported efforts by the biological collections community to make biocollections and their associated data more accessible.  A series of workshops of biocollection experts resulted in a community-wide initiative to develop a Biodiversity Collections Network (BCoN).  BCoN was a five-year national initiative funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation to support the development of a new, sustainable community of practice that will ensure that all U.S. biodiversity collections are digitally available for research, education, informed decision-making, and other scholarly and creative activities. The final report from BCoN was released in April 2019.

BCoN Report on Extending U.S. Biodiversity Collections to Promote Research and Education:

Lendemer, J. et al.  The Extended Specimen Network: A Strategy to Enhance US Biodiversity Collections, Promote Research and Education. BioScience, Volume 70, Issue 1, January 2020,

NIBA Strategic Plan:

NIBA Implementation Plan:

NSC Alliance Briefings on Digitizing Scientific Collections

In recent years, NSC Alliance has held two briefings for Congress, federal agency personnel, and nongovernmental organization representatives about the importance of the nation’s natural science collections.  The briefings explored how scientists and natural science collections managers are using new technology to digitize the nation’s natural science collections in an effort to increase access to these irreplaceable resources for research, education, and to inform our understanding and response to complex environmental problems.

View the presentations from the 2015 briefing.

Learn more about the 2012 event.

Interagency Working Group on Scientific Collections

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) recognized the value of scientific collections by commissioning the Interagency Working Group on Scientific Collections (IWGSC). In a report released in December 2008, the IWGSC acknowledged the diversity of the hundreds of scientific collections owned and maintained by federal agencies. The working group found that “these scientific collections are essential to supporting agency missions and are thus vital to supporting the global research enterprise.”


Scientific Collections: Mission-Critical Infrastructure for Federal Science Agencies

National Science Foundation Survey of Scientific Collections

The National Science Foundation (NSF) conducted a survey of the status of 611 scientific collections whose home institutions received funding from NSF since 1985. The survey, which was conducted in conjunction with the efforts of the Interagency Working Group on Scientific Collections, highlights the challenges facing biological, mineral, cell/tissue, and social science collections.

The report can be downloaded at

Museum and Collections Funding Agencies

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created to promote the progress of science.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums.

U.S. and International Collections Partnerships

The National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) is a broad, collaborative program to provide increased access to data and information on the nation’s biological resources. The NBII links diverse, high-quality biological databases, information products, and analytical tools maintained by NBII partners and other contributors in government agencies, academic institutions, non-government organizations, and private industry.

The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) is an international government-initiated and funded initiative focused on making biodiversity data available to all and anyone, for scientific research, conservation and sustainable development.

The Global Registry of Biodiversity Repositories is the first-ever consolidated, comprehensive clearinghouse of information about biological collections in natural history museums, herbaria, and other biorepositories.

Integrated Digitized Biocollections (iDigBio) is the National Resource for Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections (ADBC) funded by the National Science Foundation. Through ADBC, data and images for millions of biological specimens are being made available in electronic format for the research community, government agencies, students, educators, and the general public.