Scientific Collections: Mission-Critical Infrastructure for Federal Science Agencies

The IWGSC promotes responsible stewardship of the object-based scientific collections that serve the missions of the U.S. Federal Government. This clearinghouse provides information about the history of the IWGSC, the participating U.S. Federal Departments and Agencies, and the policies that govern the stewardship of these resources.

The U.S. Federal Scientific Collections registry (USFSC) is an online portal that provides top-level information about the scientific collections owned by the Federal Government and their parent institutions.


A fire at the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro has destroyed one of the country’s most important scientific collections. No one was injured in the fire, which broke out after the museum had closed on Sunday evening. But the blaze ravaged its massive archives and collections, numbering about 20 million items by some estimates. The museum had no sprinkler system, and limited water was available from fire hydrants when firefighters arrived.

To read more, find the article here.

[06 Sep 2018]

The Presidents and Presidents-Elect of the American Society of Mammalogists, the American Ornithological Society, and the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists published a letter of support for the Biological Survey Unit (BSU) of the United States Geologic Survey and expressing concern over the proposal to eliminate it in the 2018 budget. The BSU is housed at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.

Read the full letter here.

[26 Feb 2018]

Robert Gropp, co-Executive Director of the American Institute for Biological Sciences, recently published an editorial in BioScience that not only argues for the maintenance of current biological collections, but emphasizes the importance of continuing to collect.

He goes on to announce, the future needs of natural-history collections, as well as their potential future uses in research and education, are among the issues being addressed by the Biodiversity Collections Network (BCoN), a National Science Foundation–funded research coordination network project. BCoN is in the process of organizing a workshop to be held later in 2018 to explore potential research opportunities arising from digitized collections. BCoN will solicit advice from the scientific community in the next few months about other issues that will shape future research opportunities associated with biodiversity collections. If you have ideas or wish to contribute to these discussions, please join the BCoN community at

Read the full editorial here.

[17 Jan 2018]

User facilities - from research facilities housing specialized equipment, to repositories and field stations that house physical collections - and their government sponsors stand to benefit from improved acknowledgement of their use and a better understanding of the impact generated by work undertaken with their support.

Following this premise, ORCID and their User Facilities and Publications Working Group recently released a report on their investigation into how user facilities, publishers, and scholarly infrastructure providers can collaborate to streamline the sharing of information between researchers, user facilities, and publishers, to improve the capture of outputs from these facilities, and to lessen reporting burdens on researchers.

A summary of the report was published on the ORCID blog and the report can be found at this link

[19 Dec 2017]

Following the very public request for assistance to save collections marked for removal from the University of Louisiana at Monroe, this Nature Editorial discuses how regional hubs may offer lifelines to natural history collections facing dire straits.

[12 Apr 2017]