Biological Science Collections: Infrastructure for the Bio-economy

Author: Melissa Cragin

Natural history and other biological science collections are at once symbol and evidence of man's drive to explore and hold the world – but they also represent enormous investment by governments, scientists, and citizen naturalists.

These collections are held in many types of organizations - museums, departments and offices of academic institutions, independent research centers, and national agencies – and subject to considerable variation in their stewardship and conservation. Organizations that house these collections are often under great financial constraints, and a great number of collections throughout the world are in poor condition.

However, in many locations, there is renewed interest and support for rehabilitating the collections and restoring a more public role. As such, scientific collections provide a significant portion of our global data infrastructure: The value of physical collections increases with age by providing longer historical views of changing environments; and with emerging technologies and analytical methods, they can be used to generate new types of data to increase our understanding of evolution and ecosystems.

Moreover, they are being utilized for research based on new techniques, and for decision-makers considering a range of global challenges, some of which are related to the bio-economy.

The bio-economy is comprised of those Research & Development (R&D), commercial sectors, and customers participating in the market-based value chains for biologically based or inspired technologies, products and services that contribute to the general wealth and well-being of the nation and its citizens.

Biological collections support research and applications that are essential to the emerging bio-economy, for bioprospecting, and in areas such as bio-inspired materials and energy.

This panel will address national and university approaches to modernizing this essential public infrastructure, with a particular focus on biodiversity collections which have critical importance to understanding and solving current and emerging policy problems, including natural resource management and biosecurity.

Talks will cover:

  • • approaches to advocacy and outreach activities targeted at policy-makers and the public
  • • funding initiatives for revitalizing physical plant (brick & mortar facilities) and conservation of physical [materiel]
  • • participation in national and international data curation initiatives
  • • community-driven governance

Moderator: Melissa Cragin, AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow, National Science Foundation Directorate for the Biological Sciences

Panelists will be leaders from advocacy and research organizations that curate and steward biodiversity and natural history collections. Invitees include representatives from Singapore, Brazil, the EU and the U.S.

Category: Session Proposal
Time: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 - 16:00 to 17:30

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