While living collections are critical for biological research, support for these foundational infrastructure elements isinconsistent, which makes quality control, regulatory compliance, and reproducibility difficult. In recent years, theEcological Society of America has hosted several National Science Foundation–sponsored workshops to explore andenhance the sustainability of biological research infrastructure. At the same time, the United States Culture CollectionNetwork has brought together managers of living collections to foster collaboration and information exchange withina specific living collections community. To assess the sustainability of collections, a survey was distributed tocollection scientists whose responses provide a benchmark for evaluating the resiliency of these collections. Amongthe key observations were that plant collections have larger staffing requirements and that living microbe collectionswere the most vulnerable to retirements or other disruptions. Many higher plant and vertebrate collections haveinstitutional support and several have endowments. Other collections depend on competitive grant support in an era ofintense competition for these resources. Opportunities for synergy among living collections depend upon complementingthe natural strong engagement with the research communities that depend on these collections with enhancedinformation sharing, communication, and collective action to keep them sustainable for the future. External efforts byfunding agencies and publishers could reinforce the advantages of having professional management of researchresources across every discipline.
Volume 44 | Issue 4
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