Findings from the Specimen Management Plan Community Survey

April 11, 2023

Findings from the Specimen Management Plan Community Survey

Representatives from the Biodiversity Collections Network (BCoN) and the U.S. Culture Collection Network (USCCN), in partnership with the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the Natural Science Collections Alliance, held a webinar on February 7, 2023 on the need for a Specimen Management Plan requirement in research proposals that generate living or preserved specimens.

Following the webinar, a survey was sent to all webinar registrants. 39 responses were received, and comments are summarized below.

36 out of 39 respondents agreed that a Specimen Management Plan (SMP) is a necessary requirement for research funding proposals that generate living or preserved specimens. The hesitancy to express unqualified support for an SMP included concerns about how an SMP requirement would impact compliance with the provisions of the Nagoya Protocol, the potential cost of implementation of an SMP, and whether implementing this requirement might discourage collecting in some situations.

Specific comments included:

  • Missing elements in the BCoN-USCCN draft proposal:
    • information on the Nagoya Protocol compliance
    • the proposed SMP might be too narrow in scope, i.e., it should apply to previously collected specimens as well as newly collected ones
    • a sanctioned list of repositories
    • explicit information about ownership agreements for specimens deposited under an SMP
    • lack of mention of specimen loans, the role of publishers, and collections workforce training
  • Barriers a collections manager might face in implementing an SMP requirement:
    • increased workload, especially for extra record-keeping and other bureaucratic tasks
    • push back from researchers about the protocols that many collections have established to streamline the incorporation of new specimens (can be perceived as too much work for the researchers)
    • collections manager might be out of the loop when the agreement is negotiated resulting in key elements being left out of the plan
    • enforcement could be a challenge – who will ensure the SMP is followed and what are the consequences for non-compliance?
  • Barriers a researcher might face in formulating an SMP:
    • lack of knowledge about which collection would be an appropriate partner
    • difficulty in finding a partner (for researchers who don’t already have a relationship with a collection)
    • lack of knowledge about collection processing and management might make it difficult to know whether the protocols suggested by the prospective collection partner are the best ones for their collections
    • cost (especially if subtracted from the potential project total)
    • additional work burden
    • difficulty in estimating the number of specimens that will be generated through a particular research project
  • 36 out of the 39 respondents agreed that funding support for collections care and management should be an integral part of an SMP