The federal government is promoting an improved access to natural science collections with a total amount of CHF 12.37 million until 2024. The digitised collections provide unique data for climate, biodiversity or agricultural research, for example. To this end, the Swiss Academy of Sciences (SCNAT) has launched the Swiss Natural History Collections Network, SwissCollNet, to collaborate with museums, universities, and botanical gardens in laying the foundations for the digitisation and long-term management and use of the collections.
With a treasure of more than 60 million specimens of animals, plants, fungi, stones, soil samples and fossils, Switzerland’s museums, universities, and botanical gardens store remarkably extensive collections, as pointed out by a 2019 SCNAT report. Nevertheless, only 17 percent of these objects are digitised. This means that a large part of the collections, containing unique data on the state of the environment, is hardly accessible for research.
The Confederation has now recognised the great need for action. With this funding support, SwissCollNet can now lay the foundations for the establishment and maintenance of a perennial digital platform for research on Switzerland’s biological and geological collections. A particular attention will be paid to the coordination with similar initiatives which are currently underway in many other countries, especially in Europe.
“With its financial support to launch the project, the Confederation is ensuring that Switzerland does not miss the boat. In the coming years, digital research platforms will emerge from the natural science collections and connect globally. This large pool of data will help us to better deal with pests, environmental toxins or the climate and biodiversity crisis” says biologist Christoph Scheidegger, President of SwissCollNet.