A Global Registry for Scientific Collections: Striking a Balance Between Disciplinary Detail and Interdisciplinary Discoverability

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Eileen Graham, Scientific Collections International, Washington, DC, United States and David E Schindel, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC, United States
The Global Registry of Scientific Collections (GRSciColl) is an online information resource developed to gather and disseminate basic information on scientific collections. Building on initiatives started for biological collections, GRSciColl expands this framework to encompass all scientific disciplines including earth and space sciences, anthropology, archaeology, biomedicine, and applied fields such as agriculture and technology. The goals of this registry are to (1) provide a single source of synoptic information about the repositories, their component collections, access and use policies, and staff contact information; and (2) facilitate the assignment of identifiers for repositories and their collections that are globally unique across all disciplines. As digitization efforts continue, the importance of globally unique identifiers is paramount to ensuring interoperability across datasets. Search capabilities and web services will significantly increase the web visibility and accessibility of these collections.

Institutional records include categorization by governance (e.g., national, state or local governmental, private non-profit) and by scientific discipline (e.g., earth science, biomedical, agricultural). Collection-level metadata categorize the types of contained specimens/samples and modes of preservation. In selecting the level of granularity for these categories, designers sought a compromise that would capture enough information to be useful in searches and inquiries and would complement the detailed archives in specimen-level databases such (which are increasingly digital) hosted by discipline-specific groups (e.g. SESAR) or the repositories themselves (e.g. KE EMu).