RBGE is a partner in an ambitious initiative to create a Distributed System of Scientific Collections (DiSSCo) as a new European Research Infrastructure. This currently includes 115 organisations from 21 countries across Europe who are working together on a series of major EU-funded projects. These projects will design the infrastructure as well as develop the technical, data and organisational readiness of the partners.

The consortium includes about 1.5 billion specimens and 5,000 full-time scientists. The aim is to ensure that European natural science collections and research play a central role in addressing the global challenges relating to environmental research, climate change, food security, one health and the bioeconomy.

There are four main projects currently supporting the development of DiSSCo:

  1. Synthesis of Systematic Resources (SYNTHESYS+)
  2. Mobilising Data, Policies and Experts in Scientific Collections (MOBILISE)
  3. Innovation and Consolidation for large-scale Digitisation of Natural Heritage (ICEDIG)
  4. Catalogue of Life plus (CoL+)

RBGE is actively involved in the first two of these projects.

Within SYNTHESYS+, RBGE is the Stream Leader for the three Joint Research Activities (JRAs) in which 24 partner organisations will be participating. The JRAs will develop new services and digital collections infrastructure to increase access and to enhance the data associated with the collections.

RBGE is leading on three Tasks within the project.

  1. A landscape analysis to review the current status of data platforms and tools for integrating artificial intelligence and human approaches to capture and enhance data from digitised specimens.
  2. The implementation of the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) for bringing together digitised objects into a virtual workspace is an exciting opportunity to create linked collections across Europe.
  3. The development of protocols for large scale DNA sequencing on demand aims to open up access to the genetic and genomic data within the natural history collections of Europe.

A key part of SYNTHESYS+ is the Access opportunities which enable researchers from across Europe and beyond to visit collections and undertake research based on the specimens in European institutes.

For more information on opportunities to visit RBGE and work with the three million specimens in the herbarium, see the SYNTHESYS Access website .

The project started in February 2019 and will run until January 2023.