Paul, D., and P. Soltis. 2020. Progress Out of a Pandemic: Global collections, data sharing, and changing standards of practice. BISS 4:e59268. [Download article]
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted all aspects of our lives, but has also spawned new opportunities. Months of multidisciplinary, global collaboration have explored the connections between natural history collections and COVID-19. Museums have unrivalled (and still largely untapped) potential to contribute data, methods, and expertise to prediction, mitigation, and prevention efforts related to zoonotic disease outbreaks (DiEuliis et al. 2016, Dunnum et al. 2017), and there is a clear need for ongoing collaboration across (at least) microbiology, disease ecology, and natural history collections. In addition, we note that the roadblocks to effective data access and integration related to microbes and their hosts are a microcosm of the larger data landscape; solving these issues in the context of COVID-19—from liberating data from publications to ensuring digital connections between voucher specimens and all derived viral genetic sequences—will improve biodiversity data access and use more broadly.
Efforts since March 2020 have promoted collaboration across disciplines, international boundaries, and continents. At iDigBio, staff updated information about genetic/genomic resources available in US mammal collections; 24 records were added and information enhanced (Cortez and Soltis 2020). The Distributed System of Scientific Collections (DiSSCo) and the Consortium of European Taxonomic Facilities (CETAF) formed a worldwide COVID-19 Task Force (TaF). A US-led group formed the ViralMuse Task Force, working in concert with the TaF.