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NA 2 (SYNTHESYS 3) – Improving collections management and enhancing accessibility

NA 2 – Improving collections management and enhancing accessibility.

The tools, standards and training provided by SYNTHESYS1&2 NAs have proved successful in improving collections management of traditional European NH collections (e.g. alcohol-preserved specimens, desiccated plants and insects, bones and minerals). There is a demand from both NH institutions and the User community to move the focus from improving collections management of traditional collections to developing that for their growing virtual and new physical collections.

NA2 will meet the demand by developing collection management policies and strategic priorities for open and flexible access to virtual and new physical collections.

Collections Self-Assessment Tool (CSAT)

NA 2 will also be continue to operate the SYNTHESYS Collections Self-Assessment Tool that was developed under SYNTHESYS 2. Find out how it works and register you institution.

The aim of NA2 is to develop collection management policies and strategic priorities for open and flexible access to virtual and new physical collections. NA2 has three key objectives:

Objective 1: Managing new (virtual and physical) collections

Objective 2: Developing strategic priorities for molecular related NH collections

Objective 3: Develop Collections Self-Assessment Tool (CSAT) for new collections

Objective 1: Managing new (virtual and physical) collection


Task 1.1 Develop policies for virtual CM (CM) and integrate JRA outputs

Collate existing European virtual collection policies and use these as a basis for recommendations on a common European virtual data management policies and procedures. A meeting will be held with external representatives to discuss and refine the policies. Recommendations will include areas such as sustainable storage, open access (e.g. links with Europeana/GBIF), and IPR and Access and Benefit Sharing. In conjunction with NA3, policies will be promoted via CPB, CETAF, SPNHC and national fora. All policies will be placed on EU-CoM. JRA outputs will be included into policies to ensure that data generated from the new digital extraction techniques and crowdsourcing are fully integrated.

Task 1.2 Produce handbook of best practice and standards for 3D imaging of NH specimens

To get an overview of all relevant 3D techniques, software and equipment, a handbook of best practice for 3D imaging will be produced. The handbook will use JRA obj. 2 results and include recommendations concerning which techniques should be used for different types of object, and which technical standards exist for creating a 3D image and for visualisation of the images.

International groups working on 3D imaging will be invited to a workshop to discuss the handbook content and to horizon scan the domain. Chapters will be written by working groups constituted at the workshop (including others deemed relevant). The results will be used by JRA obj. 4.

Task 1.3 Develop policies for new physical CM

Collate existing European policies that relate to new physical collections and use these as a basis to agree recommendations for common European CM policies and procedures. A meeting will be held with representatives from outside the Consortium to discuss and refine the policies. The recommendations will include areas such as optimal storage, cost of access/sustainability, data integration, and acquisition, access and use regulations (in agreement with ABS/CBD). Promotion as task 1.1. Horizon scanning will be an integral part of this task.


Objective 2: Developing strategic priorities for molecular related NH collections


Task 2.1. Develop strategic priorities for barcoding of NH collections

Working alongside members of IBOL, create a common strategy for prioritising the barcoding of NH collections. Host workshop of NH institutions and key IBOL members to achieve this aim. CETAF, SPNHC, CPB, ECBOL and LifeWatch will be used to recruit institutions outside the Consortium to adopt the policy, ensuring a coordinated action across Europe.

Task 2.2. Develop strategic priorities for DNA library creation of NH collections

Creation and use of DNA Libraries (developed in SYNTHESYS2) will be reviewed for feasibility of implementation at institutional scale by European NH institutions. Host a two day workshop to assess the scope and protocols for common integration. Day one will be used to demonstrate the outputs of the previous SYNTHESYS JRA outcomes, which are methodologies for optimal extraction of DNA from NH collections. Day two will be used to agree priorities and integrated strategies for the creation of DNA libraries.

Task 2.3. Develop protocols for data collection from DNA extraction

Develop protocols for collecting data from sequencing activities on NH collections and feedback on the success of different methodologies. Working alongside the CPB, NA2 aims to produce a Memorandum of Understanding for a European protocol.

Task 2.4. Establish network of DNA and tissue banks

Work with Biological Resource Centres and ESBB to establish a network of DNA and tissue banks in Europe. Advice will be sought from seed and germplasm banks who have already overcome some of the potential issues for their specific group of organisms. The aims of this network will be to:

1) Enable easy access and exchange of DNA, RNA, and tissue samples

2) Coordinate the use of protocols to improve the storage of and access to collections (with Task 1.1)

3) Extend the international participation in the DNA Bank Network

4) Enhance the information system to better cover the links between specimens, tissue collections, and DNA/RNA collections.

5) Integrate RNA collections into the access system

6) Investigate integration of the network with ESBB to strengthen the biodiversity biobank community, and join efforts to integrate with the BBMRI and the GBRCN project.

7) Investigate the inclusion of samples stored using new techniques

8) Adapt existing business plan for the technical maintenance of the network (if necessary), establish fee-based long term maintenance.


Objective 3: Develop Collections Self-Assessment Tool (CSAT)

Participants: NHM (Lead), RBGE, UCPH, CSIC, BGBM, MfN

Task 3.1 Collections Self Assessment provision

Operation and promotion of CSAT (developed in SYNTHESYS2). Results fed back to institutions so that they can prioritise and implement changes to improve collections accessibility. Results will be used to identify key problem areas in CM and information passed on to the CPB for action via EU-CoM.

Task 3.2 Integration of new CM approaches into the CSAT

Questions will be added to the CSAT to enable institutions to assess the management of their virtual and new physical collections. SYNTHESYS3 will support institutions that are shown not to be managing these new collections suitably, so that they can improve and increase their accessibility.

In November 2014, a meeting was held to discuss new physical collections management policies, and it was agreed that
joining GGBN was the only sensible way to fulfil the SYNTHESYS3 NA2 work plan and its outcomes.  The minutes of the meeting can be read here (Deliverable 2.3 of the project).

Register your institution to complete a self-assessment of your collections – register for free here.

For more information or to provide any comments or input, please contact