iDigBio Symposium

Small Collections Symposium:
Blending the educational resources of small and large collections for training the next generation of museum professionals.

We invite presentations from small and large institutions on current museum-based educational and workforce training initiatives, the development and sharing of novel educational or training modules and resources, graduate and undergraduate internships and courses focused on experiential learning in collections management and curation, and future directions for natural history museum workforce development focused on students and early career professionals.

Anna Monfils, Central Michigan University, USA; Gil Nelson, iDigBio, Florida State University, USA.

Integrated Digitized Biocollections (iDigBio); Small Collections Network (SCNet).

Recent national and global digitization initiatives have led to a resurgence of interest in natural history collections (NHCs), the data they contain, and the potential to use NHC data to address large scale questions related to climate change, invasive species, and anthropogenic disturbance. This influx of energy into NHCs, emerging databases, emphasis on big data and data literacy, and the changing skill sets required to manage NHCs begs to examine the training of the next generation of scientists. The Implementation Plan for the Network Integrated Biocollections Alliance (USA) pointed to two emerging goals for the collections community that relate directly to education: 1) enhancing the training of existing collections staff and create the next generation of biodiversity information managers, and 2) infusing specimen-based learning and exploration into formal and informal science education. With the publication of Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology: A Call to Action, there has been a renewed interest in creating authentic research experiences. The next generation of college graduates needs to be competent in communication and collaboration, have quantitative competency, and the ability to understand and interpret data. The future workforce of biologists must be comfortable working with large databases. Specimens and data from NHCs can serve a unique role in workforce training as NHC specimens are uniquely qualified to teach about the iterative process of science, data literacy, quantitative biology, and biodiversity informatics.

One Collection: pathways to integration

SYNTHESYS3, GBIF, CETAF, iDigBio, and others are working together to create this series of symposia to foster a unified conversation at SPNHC 2016 directed at coordinating efforts to realize global digitization and global data access for biological collections. We’re all looking forward to your submitted abstracts. The goals of these integrated symposia are to discuss:
  • lessons learned so far, including new developments and data use examples;
  • strategies for worldwide access to the means to digitize collections data;
  • guidelines to aid prioritization of collections’ digitization and future collecting; and
  • the necessary human resources, hardware and software infrastructure for global creation of and access to this much-needed data.

An International Conversation on Mobilizing Natural History Collections Data and Integrating Data for Research

PRIMARY ORGANIZER: iDigBio, SYNTHESYS3, University of Oregon

CHAIR(S): Deborah Paul, Florida State University, USA (, iDigBio; Elspeth Haston (, Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, SYNTHESYS3; Brian Westra, University of Oregon, USA (

Natural History Collection (NHC) data are being mobilized all over the world. Recent preliminary worldwide survey data suggests the trend is growing. As digitization begins to become an every-day part of collections, many compelling issues vie for attention. For example, cost, prioritization, sustainability, and rates of digitization are four such issues. And, many uses for NHC data are well-known and fairly well-understood. But issues exist with the data, and there is still much legacy data to be digitally captured – before it can be shared with the world’s researchers.

We invite presentations from anyone in the collections and biodiversity informatics community who is involved in the mobilization and use of NHC data. We envision an assortment of talks covering three areas:
  1. digitization (including imaging) lessons learned and outstanding questions,
  2. new and emerging technologies/models, and cross-discipline collaborations for digitization and georeferencing, and
  3. collections data-in-action.
Our speakers may be, for example, those doing the digitization and mobilization of the data; museum collection administrators actively incorporating digitization into their museum’s mission and vision; computer, information, and library scientists supporting digitization and research efforts; education and outreach staff working with citizen scientists to digitize and georeference; or those using collections data in research.

  • Digitization Lessons Learned
  • New Technology, New Strategies
  • Collections Data-In-Action

Enabling Infrastructure: Future Collections, Data & Informatics


CHAIR(S): Vince Smith (, Natural History Museum London, Laurence Livermore (, Natural History Museum London

Digital technologies are having a profound influence on how we manage, access and use our collections. These services have the potential to generate efficiencies that will transform traditional collection management and create opportunities to integrate our activities across and beyond institutional boundaries.

In this session we invite speakers to present on the systems and technologies that will be required to develop a common digitisation infrastructure across collections-based institutions.

  • Data mobilisation - infrastructures aiding the digitisation of collections at scale.
  • Data aggregators & data portals - linking institutional data portals to common digital gateways to enable semantic enrichment of our data
  • Next generation collection management systems, models & data services - moving towards a service-driven architecture in collections management systems, the supporting tools (e.g. API-based services, taxonomic name matching, checklist production, authority files, georeferencing, forecasting and analytical tools) and required new and extended data models
  • Data consensus - systems and standards for community data curation and attribution


Setting global and local digitisation priorities

PRIMARY ORGANIZER: GBIF Task Force on Accelerating the Discovery of Biocollections Data

CHAIR(S): GBIF Task Force chair, Leonard Krishtalka (

Who are the future users of the digital network and how do we develop common priorities to service these needs? From a purely economic standpoint, the simplest and cheapest way to prioritize digitization is to use the A-Z approach, that is, start from one end of a collection moving sequentially to the last end. With this approach there is little trouble tracking or skipping, it is neutral and can be easily industrialised by using conveyer belt systems. However, in the majority of situations, resources are scarce, sizes and the different kinds of collections are overwhelming, research is ongoing, urgent and important questions need to be answered hence the need to set digitization priorities based for example on taxonomy, geography, habitats, research needs, preservation methods, societal needs, and so on. Priorities may be set at the individual, institutional, local, regional, national or international levels, and furthermore they need not be uniform so long as they are fit for purpose. Strategic prioritization is essential in order to make the biggest impact on biodiversity science, policy, decisions, take advantage of funding opportunities, and leverage the best partnerships. Despite the concerted efforts and the deployment of significant resources in the last decade, it is estimated that only about 10% of the world’s c. 3 billion natural history collection specimens (NHCs) have been digitised with most of the efforts concentrated in North America and Western Europe. Furthermore, only some of the digitised collections are fully mobilised in terms of being findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable. Past, current and planned digitisation projects that did not follow the A-Z approach and were not just opportunistic had to prioritise what they digitise and can provide important lessons to the biocollections community. This symposium aims to provide a roadmap for setting digitisation priorities.

This symposium will consist of concise 10-12 minute presentations from an invited panel of speakers followed by a discussion involving the audience. Panel speakers are by invitation only but the format of the symposium will accord other attendees adequate time to air their views during the discussion.


  • Prioritizing collections for digitization—which collections, what should come first, and what is the progression, etc;
  • Effective, best practices;
  • Bridging the digitization gap between the developed and developing countries;
  • Potential partnerships;
  • Funding - how to pay for it.


Developing a global research infrastructure framework for bio-collections  


CHAIR(S): Dimitris Koureas ( Natural History Museum London, UK, Ana Casino ( Consortium of European Taxonomic Facilities, BE

The future of biological collections lies in greater integration and cooperation to develop as a global Research Infrastructure (RI), with common practices, policy and systems. Achieving this requires mechanisms that enable us to draw on successful workflows, technologies and processes, and develop fair and efficient business models that ensure long-term sustainability of infrastructure. Building on the work of ADBC programme and coordinating groups like iDigBio, alongside the work of organisations and projects such as CETAF, GBIF, TDWG, NSCA and SYNTHESYS, this session will bring together key stakeholders to coordinate actions relevant to the development of a global RI on bio-collections.
At European level, the European Strategic Framework for Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) sets the top-level priorities for developing robust and sustainable RIs. Inclusion of bio-collections in the ESFRI roadmap would place bio-collections at the heart of the European RIs, enhancing physical and virtual access to collections, promoting large scale international collaborations and opening up new opportunities for attracting funding from both national and regional public and private sources.

This is a by-invitation Component of the Symposium. Conference attendees are invited to contribute to the discussion part of the session.


  • Established distributed Research Infrastructures: Lessons learned;
  • Bio-collections in Europe: ESFRI roadmap update preparatory activities;
  • Links to related regional initiatives (e.g. iDigBio, ENVRI+, LifeWatch, ELIXIR);
  • International collaboration between major programmes;
  • Sustainability and business models: What is available and what is possible?;
  • Training and capacity building programmes;
  • Wrap-up discussion: “How do we proceed?” - Action items.


DemoCamp provides a venue for creators to promote their technological solutions to advance the field of museum curation with broad applications for biology and biodiversity informatics.  This is a popular and well-attended session at SPNHC and good participation is expected.

Computer demonstrations are welcomed in any technologies relevant to natural history scientists, collections managers, or biodiversity information managers. Technologies demonstrated may include, among other things, collections/ transaction management software, geo-referencing web-based applications, and programs for analysis of data/ images. DemoCamp presentations should feature some of the latest developments in currently available products/ software/ applications as well as ongoing research projects and prototypes.  Live demonstrations of these technologies will raise awareness of new (and improved) tools available for data acquisition, documentation, and synthesis. Demonstrations will also provide a venue for idea exchange and feedback from potential users. DemoCamp abstracts will appear in the conference proceedings.

Abstracts must be submitted by March 15, 2016. Abstracts should be prepared according to the guidelines defined here and must be submitted electronically according to the instructions given, with a copy sent to the session organizer, Rusty Russell at