Abstract Detail

Biodiversity Informatics & Herbarium Digitization

Knapp, Sandra [1], Wilson, Scott [2], Vincent, Sarah [3], Hardy, Helen [4].

The changing face of access to natural history collections – the European SYNTHESYS experience.

Any one collection of objects never tells the whole story. Visits to natural history collections are critical for doing good science on and improving these collections, neglecting specimens outside one’s institution results in duplication and inefficiency, as can be seen in the history of synonymy. The SYNTHESYS (Synthesis of Systematic Resources, https://www.synthesys.info/) project has nurtured a consortium of European natural history institutes since 2004. Three strands constitute the work – Networking, Research and Access. The Access programme has facilitated and funded thousands of visits to the collections of participating institutions – its aim has been to provide access to collections of participating institutions in order to stimulate communities and broaden use beyond taxonomic users. Because access has been subsidised in the SYNTHESYS programme at both the individual and institutional level, participating institutions began to function more as a collective infrastructure, albeit loosely dispersed. Transnational Access (TA), physical access to collections with a personal visit, was the norm for previous iterations of SYNTHESYS but in the most recent iteration SYNTHESYS+ access has changed with the times. Technological advances in imaging permit high-quality surrogates of natural history specimens to be exchanged more freely, and Virtual Access (VA) forms an integral part of the SYNTHESYS+ access programme, alongside the better-established provision of TA. Virtual access has been operating for some time in the natural history collections community, but like TA, with individual scientists requesting images/sequences/scans from individual institutions or curators. VA as a centralised service will be piloted in SYNTHESYS+ in order to establish the basis for broad community change in access provision. We will review the patterns of access to collections through the history of the SYNTHESYS programme, and suggest some scenarios for managing the transition from a centrally funded model to a more distributed, cohesive infrastructure that is envisioned in the emerging European research infrastructure DiSSCo (Distributed System of Scientific Collections, https://www.dissco.eu/).

Related Links:
SYNTHESYS - Synthesis of Systematic Resources
DiSSCo - Distributed System of Scientific Collections

1 - Natural History Museum, Algae, Fungi and Plants Division, Life Sciences, Cromwell Road, London, Select..., SW7 5BD, United Kingdom
2 - Natural History Museum, SYNTHESYS Admin, Science Resources, Cromwell Road, London, Select..., SW7 5BD, United Kingdom
3 - Natural History Museum, Informatics Division, Life Sciences, Cromwell Road, London, Select..., SW7 5BD, United Kingdom
4 - The Natural History Museum, Digital Collections, Cromwell Road, London, Please select one below:, SW7 5BD, United Kingdom


Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Session: BIHD1, Biodiversity Informatics & Herbarium Digitization I
Location: Virtual/Virtual
Date: Wednesday, July 29th, 2020
Time: 4:30 PM
Number: BIHD1007
Abstract ID:591
Candidate for Awards:None

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