Resource Identification for a Biological Collection Information Service in Europe

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Abstract of the project proposal (March 1997)


The Concerted Action project will identify and analyse biological information resources (collections and databases), catalogue interdisciplinary biodiversity database expertise, provide practical guidelines for the incorporation of taxonomic or collection information in databases and identify partners - and develop a proposal - for the implementation of a European Biological Collection Information Service.

Brief description

Biological collections - living and in natural history museums - represent a widely underestimated resource for biotechnology research. In many fields Europe still houses the most extensive collections world-wide, which are and have been maintained at a significant cost over long periods of time. Collections can contribute by directly providing products and research materials, e.g. in screening for bioactive substances and genetic resources. Collections also provide information on the natural occurrence of organisms, thus facilitating access to organisms for investigation. Finally, collections ensure that the results of scientific research are reproducible by safeguarding the long term availability of vouchers of investigated organisms.

An effective access to European collections can only be achieved through computer-networked information systems, which are to disseminate data on the millions of objects present in collections. This has become an attainable goal because the ease of access to advanced computer systems has brought about a tremendous increase in the amount of data electronically available. The knowledge about the inherent information structures of biological objects has also greatly advanced. CDEFD, a project financed by the Biotechnology Programme, delivered a de-tailed information model which can be used to analyse collection data.

The BioCISE resource development project will tackle the problem of unavailability and incompatibility of collection information. A large-scale survey of collections in Europe will identify potential and existing data resources and disseminate that information. Based on the CDEFD model , structural features of datasets will be elucidated and metadata as well as guidelines for the creation of new information resources will be produced. Software companies and individuals who posses the needed interdisciplinary knowledge to implement biological collection databases will be identified. Major information providers recognised will contribute directly to the European network of bioinformatics nodes. All results will be published on the Internet.

The proposed Concerted Action Project will thus prepare a sound collaborative technical and structural base for a Biological Collection Information Service in Europe, which can unveil the rich resources contained in European biological collections and make them accessible for both, industrial and public-sector research.

BioCISE Secretariat. Email: biocise@, FAX: +49 (30) 841729-55
Address: Botanischer Garten und Botanisches Museum Berlin-Dahlem (BGBM), Freie Universität Berlin, Königin-Luise-Str. 6-8, D-14195 Berlin, Germany