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Collections Resources


Federal Guidance and Regulations

America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010


(a) MANAGEMENT OF SCIENTIFIC COLLECTIONS.—The Office of Science and Technology Policy shall develop policies for the management and use of Federal scientific collections to improve the quality, organization, access, including online access, and long-term preservation of such collections for the benefit of the scientific enterprise. …

(b) CLEARINGHOUSE.—The Office of Science and Technology Policy, in consultation with relevant Federal agencies, shall ensure the development of an online clearinghouse for information on the contents of and access to Federal scientific collections.

(c) DISPOSAL OF COLLECTIONS.—The policies developed under subsection (a) shall—(1) require that, before disposing of a scientific collection, a Federal agency shall—(A) conduct a review of the research value of the collection; and (B) consult with researchers who have used the collection, and other potentially interested parties, concerning— (i) the collection’s value for research purposes; and (ii) possible additional educational uses for the collection; and (2) include procedures for Federal agencies to transfer scientific collections they no longer need to researchers at institutions or other entities qualified to manage the collections.

(d) COST PROJECTIONS.—The Office of Science and Technology Policy, in consultation with relevant Federal agencies, shall develop a common set of methodologies to be used by Federal agencies for the assessment and projection of costs associated with the management and preservation of their scientific collections.

(e) SCIENTIFIC COLLECTION DEFINED.—In this section, the term ‘‘scientific collection’’ means a set of physical specimens, living or inanimate, created for the purpose of supporting science and serving as a long-term research asset, rather than for their market value as collectibles or their historical, artistic, or cultural significance, and, as appropriate and feasible, the associated specimen data and materials.

Department of the Interior Manual: Policy and Management Responsibilities for Museum Property

411 DM 

Establishes Department of the Interior program policy and standards for identifying and managing museum property.  This chapter and the DOI Museum Property Directives apply to all bureaus and offices responsible for managing museum property. Museum property is identified, acquired, and managed by bureaus and offices in compliance with Federal laws and regulations that apply to archaeological collections, paleontological collections, mission-related collections, and other DOI collections.


United States Office of Science and Technology Policy Memoranda

The United States Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) advises the President of the United States on science and technology developments, issues, and effects on national and international policies and affairs. OSTP is also authorized to work with national, state, and local governmental organizations, as well as academic and private science institutions to develop and implement sound scientific practices that benefit society.


Collections Management Policies

Scientific Working Collections

Biological Collections

Geological Collections

Museum Collections

Digital Record Collections


Collections and Digitization Communities

Internet of Samples in the Earth Sciences (iSamples)

The Internet of Samples in the Earth Sciences (iSamples) is an international Research Coordination Network (RCN) dedicated to advancing the connections between physical sample collections to digital data using innovative methods in developing cyberinfrastructure. Members of this network come from federal, state, academic, and private science institutions, and the RCN hosts online webinars regularly, as well as face-to-face meetings and a presence at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) annual meetings.

iSamples hosted a webinar featuring the USGS Geologic Collections Management System, and uploaded the presentation to YouTube. You can view the presentation, recorded on October 28, 2015 here.

Integrated Digitized Biocollections (iDigBio)

The Integrated Digitized Biocollections (iDigBio) is the national resources for digitized information about vouchered natural history collections on biodiversity. It is part of the program Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections (ADBC) funded by the National Science Foundation. Through ADBC, data and images for millions of biological specimens are being made available in electronic format for the research community, government agencies, students, educators, and the general public. iDigBio serves as the coordinating center for the national digitization effort; fosters partnerships and innovations; facilitates the determination and dissemination of digitization practices and workflows; establishes integration and interconnectivity among the data generated by collection digitization projects; and promotes the uses of biological/paleontological collections data by the scientific community and stakeholders including government agencies, educational institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and other national and international entities to benefit science and society through enhanced research and outreach activities.

iDigBio conducts digitization training workshops and provides a variety of biological collection digitization resources via the iDigBio website.

Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP)

Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with a mission to support the networking and data dissemination needs of its members and the global Earth science data community by linking the functional sectors of observation, research, application, education, and use of Earth science. It is supported by NASA, NOAA, USGS, and 130+ member organizations including federal data centers, government research laboratories, research universities, education resource providers, technology developers, and various nonprofit and commercial enterprises. ESIP has developed substantial collaboration tools and infrastructure which it uses to facilitate connections and allow members to leverage their collective experience and technical capacity to address common challenges related to Earth science data (text from About ESIP).

 Research Data Alliance Physical Samples and Collections in the Research Data Ecosystem Interest Group

The Research Data Alliance Physical Samples and Collections in the Research Data Ecosystem Interest Group aims to facilitate cross-domain exchange and convergence on key issues related to the digital representation of physical samples and collections. This includes the use of globally unique and persistent identifiers for samples to support unambiguous citation and linking of information, metadata standards for documenting samples and collections, access policies, and best practices for sample and collection cataloging (text from interest group description).

Sampling Nature Research Coordination Network

The Sampling Nature Research Coordination Network (RCN) works to overcome barriers to making material samples FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable). Sampling Nature aims to build a new and interdisciplinary community of collaborative researchers to exploit the potential of an accessible, integrated corpus of material sample data. Members are from multiple NSF directorates, federal agencies, Indigenous groups, museum, publishers, and infrastructure. Sampling Nature is developing a community-driven metadata standard; policy recommendations around the collection, transport, storage, preservation, and sharing of material samples; training materials covering best practices for sample identification and metadata; and an innovative social media campaign to communicate the importance of material samples in science, society, and sustainability (text from RCN description).

Online Resources

  • iDigBio Portal - specimen records from biological/paleontological collections housed by U.S. institutions.
  • Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) - an international network and infrastructure that provides free and open access to  biodiversity data via use of common data sharing standards and tools.
  • USGS Biodiversity Information Serving Our Nation (BISON) - U.S. species occurrence data and maps from a variety of sources including observational data from surveys, inventories and citizen science projects, as well as collections data from natural history museums and other institutions.



  • Interagency Working Group on Scientific Collections, 2009, Scientific collections—Mission-critical infrastructure for Federal science agencies: Washington, D.C., Office of Science and Technology Policy, National Science and Technology Council, 49 p. Available online:
  • National Research Council, 2002, Geoscience data and collections—National resources in peril: Washington, D.C., National Academies Press, 128 p. Available online:
  • Office of Inspector General, 2009, Department of the Interior museum collections—Accountability and preservation: U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Inspector General, Report No. C-IN-MOA-0010-2008, 45 p. Available online:
  • Reynolds, Robert P. and McDiarmid, Roy W., 2012. Voucher Specimens, in McDiarmid, Roy W., Foster, M. S., Guyer, C., Gibbons, J. W. and Chernoff, N., Reptile Biodiversity: Standard Methods for Inventory and Monitoring. Berkeley: University of California Press, pp.89-94.