DiSSCo Futures will run in plenary, encompassing keynotes, panel discussions, lightning talks, service demonstrations and audience interaction, all of them aligned around key themes developed across projects and focused on the scientific and strategic highlights of the work as the next steps toward realising an integrated vision toward one European collection are taken. The themes cover digitisation, access, infrastructure, standards, organisation and the human capacity necessary to deliver a truly Distributed System of Scientific Collections.
We start DiSSCo Futures looking back at the success of the SYNTHESYS programme, running since 2004, which paved the way for the DiSSCo ESFRI initiative and the work of the DiSSCo Prepare project, which, with the help of the MOBILISE COST action, has supported the early developments of DiSSCo.
With the help of our keynote speakers, we also cast an eye on the future of the natural science collection community, imagining a future 10-20 years hence, when many of our collections are digitised, the technology landscape has been further transformed, and the policy landscape has shifted, either by showing signs of reversing the current trajectory of biodiversity loss, or at least mitigating that loss through better-informed policy decisions.
Digitisation: transforming collections
You could summarise everything DiSSCo has to offer to the European and global scientific community in a single concept: Digital Transformation. For the last three years, our community has been working on enhancing virtual access to collections, building new digital services, developing the revolutionary concept of the digital extended specimen... you name it. However, there could never be a truly digital transformation without the unprecedented effort that DiSSCo is undertaking in digitising European natural history collections.
Enabling and supporting industrial scale digitisation of European NHCs has been and will continue to be a fundamental goal of DiSSCo in the future.
DiSSCo aims to create a unique access point for integrated data analysis and interpretation of Natural history collection specimens. A fundamental part of that effort focuses on providing physical but also virtual access to NHCs. Only by providing both types of access will DiSSCo truly turn today’s landscape of isolated individual collections into a new reality for Europe: a single knowledge base of unprecedented scale that links all data classes across institutions.
DiSSCo Futures’ session on virtual access will focus on the impact of the work developed in SYNTHESYS+ and address the challenges and opportunities for the future Research Infrastructure once it is operational.
Similarly to the session about Virtual Access, DiSSCo Future's session on Physical Access will provide an overview of the experiences gained during the SYNTHESYS+ project and will focus on access from a variety of perspectives: the user, the host, the institution and the EC. The future of Transnational Access will put an end to the conversation on this theme that remains absolutely crucial in DiSSCo's strategy for the future.
That we are working on an unprecedented effort to digitally bring together all European natural science assets is the bit that most people remember easily about DiSSCo. Let us not forget, however, that the future RI is not only about bringing data together but also about transforming the data and the ways scientists work with it. The key goal here is to turn static collections records about specimens into dynamic, actionable objects that will evolve with science itself.
Such an ambitious endeavour calls for solid foundations. Ours is DiSSCo’s Digital Infrastructure.
The 'Digital Infrastructure' session highlights several key technical advancements that serve as the foundation for the DiSSCo building blocks. This session includes a blend of technical demonstrations, informative summary talks, and dedicated Q&A and discussion time.
We at DiSSCo know this well: most of the hard work happens behind the scenes.
Data standards take time and hard work to develop, and if they achieve their aim, users hardly realise they are there. Data should flow in and between software seamlessly, without having to struggle to fit them together.
During DiSSCo Futures, we will show new and developing standards that users will hopefully, one day, be unaware of. In the end, what we want is users to be able to focus on their scientific questions instead of issues of interoperability.
Organisational & Human Capacity
As DiSSCo crosses the threshold into its Transition Phase, it will witness the implementation of new policies and frameworks.
Having agreed on the ERIC as the most suitable legal form for the future Research Infrastructure, the organisational work now needs to focus on how DiSSCo will govern itself and its resources within the new framework.
Equally important, our community will continue working hard to enhance DiSSCo’s technical, human and process capacity, both in human and organisational terms, so that we reach true excellence as a distributed research infrastructure.
Closing remarks & Future Plenary
DiSSCo Future's last session will be mostly about exchanging views. After a quick review of the previous sessions, our last 1.5 hours will host interesting debates about whether DiSSCo should have a stronger focus on collections digitisation and the need to agree on and enforce data standards to improve data quality.