The Smithsonian leads the nation in preserving and maintaining scientific research collections and serves as a co-chair, along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Interagency Working Group on Scientific Collections (IWGSC) at the behest of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The goal is to encourage federal agencies to focus attention on integrated support and planning for their care and use of Federally held scientific collections. See the charter (here). In 2008, the IWGSC issued a report that urged the members of the group put in place a system for monitoring and improving the condition of Federal scientific collections and promote improvements in management, documentation and curation.
On March 20, 2014, the U.S. Science Advisor and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), John P. Holdren, issued a memorandum on “Improving the Management of and Access to Scientific Collections” (PDF) [Also described via this blog post]. In the memo, OSTP directs each Federal agency that owns, maintains, or otherwise financially supports permanent scientific collections to develop a draft scientific-collections management and access policy. The end goal is a systematic improvement of the development, management, accessibility, and preservation of scientific collections owned and/or funded by Federal agencies.
The policy responds to the mandate of the America COMPETES Act of 2010, and builds on the work of the Interagency Working Group on Scientific Collections (IWGSC). The policy will be very important in enhancing the availability of federally funded and federally supported collections to advance research, education, public health, and natural resource management, and will protect the U.S. government's substantial investment in creating those collections. In addition to its direct impact on the care of collections owned, maintained, and funded by the federal government, it will have a significant indirect impact on raising the standard for care of non-federal collections nationally, and will be seen as model for many other countries.
Scott Miller, Deputy Undersecretary for Collections and Interdisciplinary Support serves as co-chair of the IWGSC.
As part of the promotion of responsible stewardship of object-based scientific collections, IWGSC has created two online resources for use by the Federal Government and the public.
The IWGSC Clearinghouse provides information about the history of the IWGSC, the policies that govern the stewardship of U.S. Federal scientific collections, and pertinent reports and literature to IWGSC and the collections community.
The registry of U.S. Federal Scientific Collections (USFSC) is a community-curated source of information about object-based scientific collections owned and/or managed by U.S. Federal departments and agencies. The USFSC registry includes data on collections that span all scientific disciplines, the institutions that house them, and the staff that maintain them.
Scientific Collections International (SciColl)
SciColl is a global consortium devoted to promoting the use and impact of object-based collections across all scientific disciplines. SciColl facilitates a new perception of interdisciplinary, collections-based research by convening workshops that assess grand societal challenges, such as food security and infectious diseases, in the context of how scientific collections can enhance and further current research.
SciColl’s Secretariat office, established in November 2013, is housed at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and is served by Dr. David Schindel, chair of the Executive Board, and Eileen Graham, SciColl’s Program Manager.
Learn more about SciColl at their website.
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