Friday, March 28, 2014

Management of scientific collections

About a week ago the US government announced a new policy on management of scientific collections. It aims to improve the quality, organization, access, and long-term preservation of such collections for the benefit of the scientific enterprise and society. The full memorandum is rather detailed but I went through and took the liberty to pick some points listed under the management objectives for scientific collections which I find intriguing and it would be great if other governments could adopt similar strategies and policies:

a) Develop and clearly describe procedures for making scientific collections more  accessible to educators and researchers, including non-Federal scientists, to maximize public benefit. 

b) Work with the Smithsonian Institution to ensure that information on the contents of and how to access the agency’s scientific collections is available on the Internet in a central Federal clearinghouse and to maintain participation in the Federal clearinghouse once it is established. 

c) Use machine-readable and open formats, data standards, and common-core and extensible metadata for all new information creation and collection to facilitate search and discoverability and provide clear public guidance for accessing collections materials, consistent with the Executive Order on Making Open and Machine Readable the new Default for Government Information. 
d) When available and where not limited by law, make freely and easily accessible to the public all digital files in the highest available fidelity and resolution, including, but not limited to, photographs, videos, and digital 3D models, and associated records and documentation, describing or characterizing objects in government-managed scientific collections. 

e) Associate digital files describing or characterizing scientific collections with the agency’s collections catalog and the central Federal clearinghouse referenced in Section 3(b) of this memorandum. By default, this information should be in machine-readable and open formats. 

I believe this is the first time that a government has issued such clear policies to improve accessibility of scientific collections that are managed by them. 

h/t Scott Miller

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