About the Specify Network category

Ideas and perspectives on extended specimen data linking and integrations of collection management system collections within the broader data community.

What has your interest with collection data integration? Digital Extended Specimens? Digital Object Architectures? “Blue-sky” or future predictions invited on the future of thematically-focused biodiversity data repositories, the role of aggregators, or the evolving role of collections as authoritative (or secondary?) sources of species occurrence information.

We Zoomed today with a research university interested in integrating their live animal data in Zims (from Species360) with specimen information in Specify, and possibly with frozen tissue data in Freezerworks. They would like to manage and retain the association of all of the information that emerges from their living animal collection, including osteology specimens, tissues, scat, DNA, etc., to be able to document and annually report on their research activities and artifacts more completely. API-based integration among the platforms, if it could be accomplished in a robust and sustainable fashion, with ongoing support, might be a viable solution.

This case is interesting in that it illustrates how the vision of robust data integration will challenge institutions to be able to afford the cost of extensive data community engagement. The collections data from this research institution partially belongs in the global Zims database, partially within a freezer management platform, partially within a collections management system (with wild source localities published to GBIF), and also partially in other places like having their tissue sample data in GGBN, and DNA sequences in molecular data set aggregators. They also have 3D scans appropriate for Morphosource. That’s a large number of software platforms with which to be technically familiar. How will individual institutions like this and the collections community collectively afford the human resource and technical support costs to maintain (two-way) data integration services among all of these platforms as each one of them evolves new data interfaces and functions?

We also receive occasional inquiries regarding the possibility of handling living plant collection information in Specify. This would not be integration across platforms, but merging two related disciplines within a single database. The biggest challenge with this kind of integration is basically financial in that gardens substantially have their own data models and workflows dealing with horticulture, provenance, culture methods (watering, fertilizing), etc., that do not overlap with research collection information management, thus requiring significant investment in the design and program logic for new workflows, community consensus on a data model, and possibly some new user interface components.