Announcing the Specify Collections Consortium

The Specify Software Project is pleased to announce the creation of the Specify Collections Consortium, an open-source, biological informatics initiative. The Consortium builds on the Specify’s software platforms for specimen data processing and continues database technical support services that the Specify Project has provided to the collections community with US NSF grant funding for the last 21 years.

The Specify Collections Consortium organizational vision is to sustain an open-source software development community with open governance model of engaged collection institutions to advance research and education use of biological specimen and sample information. A Board of Directors, Research, and Technology Advisory Committees evaluate and determine the Consortium’s software and service priorities and govern the organization. The Consortium will advance the interests of its member institutions through engineering and supporting software that facilitates the creation, validation, curation, discovery, and research use of specimen data records.

The Specify Collections Consortium’s vision includes tracking and responding to the macrotrends affecting the biological collections community, including the economic pressure for collections consolidation, national and international data aggregation, the move to cloud-based services, and the increasing level of integration with broader computing initiatives that discover, index, link, and reveal the (dark) data held in biodiversity databases. A Consortium goal is to make member institutions more competitive and visible to local stakeholders as well as to broader research collections and computing communities.

With routine curatorial and collection management data processing in hand, the Consortium will develop software tools for the detailed, quantitative description of the collection holdings, with the goal of identifying collection strengths and gaps in multiple dimensions including taxonomic, geographic, climatic, and temporal vectors. Such analyses will help institutions prioritize curation activities, acquisitions, de-accessions, and will highlight the uniqueness and scientific value of an institution’s holdings for the benefit of campus stakeholders and funders.

The Specify Collections Consortium will collaborate with institutional IT staff to guide, stabilize, and evolve collections computing strategies. For some member institutions, the Consortium will relate in “CO-IT” partnerships where Consortium facilities and staff will host, backup, secure, and maintain institutional databases in cloud-hosted platforms. With the continuous innovation with research IT, standards, and Internet technologies, the Consortium will be a conduit for delivering new opportunities and strategic capabilities within the context of broader commercial and community advances. For small- to medium-sized institutions, this forward-looking technology support may wholly eliminate the need for local collections IT staff. Larger institutions and national initiatives will likely delegate software development and technical support to Consortium staff and contribute when they can to the Consortium’s open source software repositories. This will relieve large institutions and projects from cost of hiring programmers and IT staff to cover core collections cyberinfrastructure needs, and allow them to allocate IT resources to other research priorities.

The Consortium will also research and deploy methods within international standards frameworks to provide institutions attribution and acknowledgement for downstream uses of their data. This will generate vitally important information to help rationalize and justify the ongoing investment in collection curation, digitization, physical space, and staff.

Since announcing our intention to establish the Specify Collections Consortium in early 2017, we have implemented the non-profit membership organization, it currently includes 40 institution members distributed around the globe. Additional institutions and collection digitization initiatives will join the Consortium this year.

Annual membership fees in the Specify Collections Consortium are based on the number of collections for which an institution requires support, the level of engagement they prefer in the Consortium’s governance and the amount of technical support services needed. Institutional Associate Membership in the Consortium cost $1,000 USD per year per disciplinary research collection.

We welcome inquiries from institutions who see value in pooling and leveraging IT financial and staff resources to sustain an open source community initiative to advance the utilization and valuation of their ongoing investment in biological collections. We would be happy to discuss institutional membership options and to provide details on Specify Collections Consortium membership benefits.

Consortium Membership Levels and Benefits

Founding Partner – $40,000/year/Institution (all institution collections)

For museums and consortia of vision who see the strategic and long-term research value of their collections and for guiding the future of collections informatics, Founding Members assume a stand-up, leadership role in Consortium governance and operations. As research collections community leaders with a seat on the governing board, Founding Members will engage their vision and grow the informatics future of the biological collections community.

With insight, commitment, and leadership, Founding Members leverage their collection informatics investment to positively impact hundreds of smaller yet significant collections around the world that contribute specimens and data to the collective knowledge of earth’s biological diversity.

Founding Member status ensures immediate access to Consortium technical staff, and a complete suite of technical support services for all the institution’s collection databases. Your institutional IT staff will benefit from direct access to Specify engineers for problem resolution, joint code development, proposal and project planning. Consortium intellectual and technical resources will ensure that your collection digitization initiatives are achievable, effective, and successful. For large institutions with multiple collections, investment in a Founding Membership realizes considerable cost savings over the expense of commercial software licenses, or the salaries of in-house programmers. Institutional benefits of Founding Memberships include:

  • Two permanent seats on the Board of Directors
  • A permanent seat on both the Science and Technology Advisory Committees
  • Active engagement in the prioritization new architectures, applications and capabilities
  • Two paid seats at the annual Specify Consortium Research Summit
  • Collaborative development of funding proposals for software innovation, collection data analysis, integration, or digitization initiatives.
  • Expedited technical issue resolution with direct access to Consortium engineers
  • Priority access to help desk staff and services, including remote login sessions
  • Technical collaboration for contributing code to the Specify source repository
  • Recognition in Consortium products as an institution of vision and community leadership
  • Personalized webinar-style training, as well as full access to all other training services
  • Unlimited number of installations, collections, and users
  • Access to consortium database hosting, administration, security, and backup services
  • Priority access to Consortium software platforms, tools, and updates

Full Member – $5,000/year/collection

For biological collections that prefer to be proactively engaged in shaping the priorities and technology directions of the Consortium, Full Membership offers a leadership opportunity. You will be at the table to participate in the critical discussions that will determine the cyberinfrastructure support capabilities for your collection, as well as more generally impact the direction of biological collections computing, worldwide.

Your IT staff will benefit from direct access to Consortium engineers for assistance and project development, extending the influence and reach of your own bioinformatics activities by leveraging the technical activities of the Consortium. Your collections researchers and IT staff will receive comprehensive software support, at considerable savings relative to the costs of commercial software licenses, or maintaining bespoke in-house software. Specific benefits for Full Members include:

  • A permanent seat on the Board of Directors
  • Priority for one seat on each of Consortium’s Science and Technology Advisory Committees
  • A paid seat at the annual Specify Consortium Research Summit
  • Collaborative proposal writing and new project planning
  • Direct access to Consortium engineers for technical issue resolution
  • Technical collaboration for contributing code to the Specify source repository
  • Immediate access to help desk support services, including remote login sessions
  • Personalized webinar-style training, as well as access to all other training services
  • Recognition in Consortium products as an institution of vision and community leadership
  • Access to Consortium database hosting, administration, security, and backup services
  • Preferred access to Consortium software updates
  • Unlimited number of software users

 

Solutions Member – $1250 – $3000/year/collection/strong>

For collections that want to utilize Consortium’s setup services in the first year to migrate legacy collection data into the Consortium data model and software, and those that require additional technical services for conversion, or for maintenance of their data in the Consortium’s database hosting service. When joining as a Solutions Member, we will work with you to define your collection’s digitization workflows and configure software to fit them. Benefits include:

  • Eligibility for a rotating seat on the Consortium Board of Directors
  • Access to rotating seats on the Specify Science and Technology Advisory Committees
  • A paid seat at the annual Specify Consortium Research Summit
  • Access to help desk support including remote login sessions
  • Customization of user interface forms, and print outputs: labels and reports
  • Legacy data conversion services, including custom scripts and data management
  • Access to Consortium database hosting, administration, security, and backup services
  • Full access to the online forum, help documents, and video tutorials
  • Access to all Consortium software tools, features, and updates
  • Unlimited number of software users

Associate Member – $1,000/year/collection

For institutions that want to continue to advance their collection data management and mobilization of collection information for scientific use, Associate Membership offer comprehensive support and opportunities for collaboration. Collections that are Associate Members get the comprehensive core software and technical support benefits of the Consortium, including:

  • Eligibility for rotating seats on the Specify Science and Technology Advisory Committees
  • A paid seat at the annual Specify Research Summit
  • Help desk support including remote login sessions
  • Access to the online forum, help documents, and video tutorials
  • Access to all Consortium software tools, features, and updates
  • Unlimited number of software users

Commitment/Feedback Form

Members of the Specify Collections Consortium support and sustain the software, maintenance, and support services of the Specify Software Project. A commitment to join the consortium prior to April 1 ensures continuous access to all technical support services. This completed form confirms the intent of the institution and/or collection named below to join the Specify Collections Consortium at the indicated level.

Commitment Level