|Title||New Push to Bring US Biological Collections to the World's Online Community|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2011|
|Full Text|| |
On the sprawling campus of the US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Beltsville, Maryland, Shannon Dominick, scientific collections coordinator of the National Fungus Collections, stands over a light table and gingerly opens an envelope encasing an 88-year-old specimen of Polyporus pterygodes. The fungus was gathered by Kaneyoshi Sawada, a pioneer of Asian mycology.
Using tweezers, Dominick carefully arranges the sample so that it can be photographed with a simple digital camera. The photo will be uploaded to a laptop computer and sent to a researcher in China, who is studying the Sawada collection. The process of capturing the image of a single species can take up to 30 minutes.
The federal government is taking significant steps to
As part of the federal push, in July, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded the first of major new grants—totaling $100 million over a 10-year period—to further the digitization of biological collections. The grants were a response to a 2010 strategic plan developed by the biological collections community, Establishing a National Digital Biological Collections Resource, for rapidly bringing online all biological specimens, an effort described as “a grand challenge” meant “to transform the practice of collections-based biological research, scientific achievement, and international research collaboration.”
Meanwhile, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a memo in October 2010 to the heads of all federal departments and agencies, directing them, among other measures, to make as much “as possible” of their collections information available online within 36 months. This was strengthened in December when Congress passed the America Competes Act, putting the directive into law. Unfortunately, the law did not come with extra funding.