Science and technology policy

Launch of a new international collaboration on scientific collections: SciColl



‌Scientific Collections International

‌‌SciColl launch - Scientific Collections InternationalSciColl (Scientific Collections International) was officially launched at the 28th meeting of the OECD Global Science Forum (GSF) in Paris on 16 April 2013. Representatives from the 10 founding members signed a Memorandum of Understanding for this new international scientific cooperation mechanism. The SciColl secretariat will be located at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.‌

‌Right: SciColl Chairman David Schindel with GSF Chairman Hiroshi Nagano and
the other SciColl board members at the April 2013 GSF meeting.



Scientific collections worldwide contain billions of samples and specimens, which are stored primarily for research purposes. These include collections of biomedical samples, human artifacts, natural history samples (rocks, plants, animals, etc.), ice or sediment cores, mud and other environmental samples and many other objects of scientific interest, together with their associated data.

Scientific collections are large-scale research infrastructures which are essential for studies on food security, public health, global change, biodiversity and many other global issues. They allow for rapid access to samples, opportunities to use new analytical technologies on old samples to generate new knowledge, ability to verify past results by studying reference materials, ability to document conditions at a time and place that are critical for regulations or legal decisions, and so forth.

However, scientific collections are widely scattered worldwide and are subject to many different standards of access and operation. No single country can hold collections complete enough for modern science uses, but together they constitute a formidable research instrument that can support the needs of many scientific disciplines and new interdisciplinary research.



The initial activity on scientific collections was proposed by the delegation of the Netherlands to the Global Science Forum in 2006. Its conclusion was that scientific collections represented a new type of research infrastructures which could be of great value for many emerging scientific issues, but the curent collection community was badly scattered and too poorly organised to provide optimal access to collections for research purposes. This led to the proposal to set up an international network that would act as a coordinating mechanism to promote interdisciplinary research that relies on object-based collections in a broad range of scientific disciplines.  A number of international workshops and planning meeting were held under the umbrella of the Global Science Forum to develop the Terms of Reference and the Memorandum of Understanding of the future coordination mechanism which has now been launched.


What is SciColl?

SciColl is an international network devoted to increasing the benefits that scientific collections produce for scientific research and for addressing some of the major challenges facing society. SciColl’s dual mission is to:

  • help scientific collections and their host institutions to increase their effectiveness and the return on investment from the long-term management of collections, and
  • catalyze ground-breaking interdisciplinary research that relies on access to scientific collections.

SciColl membership is based on a legally non-binding "Memorandum of Understanding". Members can be national governments, research institutions or consortium of research institutions. The 10 founding members of SciColl include three governments (Australia, Belgium and the United States) and seven institutions: the Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (Brazil), the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (France), the Museum für Naturkunde (Germany), the National Science Museum (Korea), the Natural History Museum London (United Kingdom), the Naturalis Museum (Netherlands), and the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (Spain).



For further information, please contact Frédéric Sgard of the OECD Global Science Forum.


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