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Recommendations: Management Policy on Digital Collections

A: About Recommendations: Management Policy on Digital Collections and Supplements

A 1 Aims and Authors

The present document aims to serve as handbook or guideline, which helps Natural History institutions to develop their own Management Policies on Digital Collections (MPDC). It explains what a MPDC is, why an institution should have one, and it advises on what subjects should be covered.

This handbook on MPDC was created within the framework of SYNTHESYS3 NA2 Objective 1 Task 1.1 / "Develop policies for virtual CM and integrate JRA outputs", which is led by the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin (MfN) / Christiane Quaisser. Partner institutions of the Objective (as noted in the respective work plan) are: NHM, RBGK, RBGE, UCPH, CSIC, RMCA, NHMW and NMP. Partners of the Task (as noted in the respective work plan) are: Elspeth Haston and Vince Smith (Subtask 1.1.1 / "Meet with JRA Objective 4").

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B: Overview: Background and Aims of a Management Policy on Digital Collections

The MPDC is a Collections Management Policy (CMP) that focusses on digital collection data. It is a set of policies that addresses various aspects of the management of digital collection data and should provide long term guiding principles for the institutions management of the digital collection.
Institutions managing digital collections are diverse. They therefore need to create their individual MPDC influenced by their history, collection, and governance. While the individual MPDC will vary in structure and content, this present guideline aims to help to create a MPDC by providing a set of important elements and aspects.

B 1 Reasons for Developing Management Policies on Digital Collection Data

A MPDC aims to help institutions maintain the highest professional standards for the management of digital collection data. It creates a definite framework for the development, documentation, access, care, and conservation of a digital collection. It clarifies authorities and responsibilities and guides the implementation of workflows.

B 2 Acceptance and Revision Processes of a MPDC

To be accepted and recognised by each staff member and other relevant people, the MPDC (as every CMP) should be comprehensible, functional, well-known, and up to date. To ensure relevance and to review implementation, the MPDC should be revised regularly. For the revision process it is recommended to involve staff members implementing the policy. For better comprehensibility and visibility, it is recommended to:

  • Use simple, non-technical language where possible;
  • Provide all relevant regulations, MPDC, and forms in English language as well as the native language;
  • Make all relevant regulations, MPDC, forms, and contact details easily accessible, e.g. on the website of the respective institution;
  • Provide all relevant regulations, MPDC, forms, and contact details together, accessible through a single point;
  • Actively refer to, promote and provide support for the usage of MPDC (e.g. at employee meetings, on written agreements for visits to the collection);
  • To identify an owner of the MPDC with responsibility for its implementation and revision.

Where applicable, the MPDC should relate and cross reference to the Collections Development Plan for the institution as a whole or other relevant collections development plans. The digital collection is or at least should be considered as part of the institutions collection assets and should be governed and managed in a manner consistent with other collections held by the institution.

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C: Contents and Suggested Structure of a MPDC

C 1 Introduction

The following elements could be covered in the introduction, if applicable. This list is not exclusive.

C 1.1 Statement and Definition of Digital Data

Digital Data
During the curatorial, scientific, and other work on NH collections, a vast quantity of digital data are dealt with, produced and stored. These digital data come as numerous and diverse types, which can be classified based on different criteria, e.g.

  • File format;
  • Content;
  • Context of Origin.

Definition of Digital Collection Data
There are various types of digital data relating to NH collections and different interpretations on data as a result of a creative process. Hence, before giving statements and regulations on how to proceed with (digital collection) data, a definition of the data these regulations apply to should be given.
Respective data may be, e.g.

  • Data with direct link to physical or digital object;
  • Data on collection itself;
  • Scientific (raw) data;
  • Data which are products of a creative act (individual images,...);
  • (Semi-) automatically produced data (scans, copies,...);
  • Crowdsourcing data.

Other data types may be, e.g.

  • Texts or original labels;
  • Digital images, transcriptions, or other digital analogues of objects, or born digital collections within the governance of the institutions, including:
    • Scans (including x-rays, CT, other scans) or digitized images / copies (3D images, microscopical slides, electron microscope slides, etc.);
    • Films or video;
    • Sound recordings;
    • Annotations;
    • Sequences;
  • Metadata (e.g. statistics);
  • Data sets (e.g. measurements).

Data sources may be, e.g.

  • Individual Efforts;
  • Digitization Efforts;
  • Crowdsourcing.

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C 1.2 Challenges (Regarding Handling of Digital Data)

Potential or current challenges should or may be mentioned in the MPDC, e.g. in the introductory chapter. One of such challenges could be the combination, integration, and complementation of traditional and modern approaches rather than abandoning traditional paths that proved to be reliable and beneficiary. Another challenge could be the long-term archival storage of digital collection data.

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C 1.3 Justification for Data Sampling, Digitization, and Data Storage

Advantages of Gathering as well as Preserving Digital Collection Data and of Digitization
Digital data - whether they result from individual efforts or mass digitization - are an essential tool (and product) of a modern research and collection based institute. They complement the physical objects and are, like the latter, part of the collection. The reasons and necessities of gathering and curating digital data should be explained within the MPDC, e.g. in the introductory chapter.

Well-organized gathering, preservation, and presentation of digital data potentially have the following advantages, e.g.:

  • Support of the physical specimen and its management by its digital representation, e.g.
  • By providing additional data related to the object;
  • As backup in case of loss or damage of the object and as a means to minimize risk of damage or loss during handling and shipping;
  • By giving a comprehensive overview of the management status of the object and thereby to:
    • Facilitate collections' administration and logistics;
    • Facilitate decisions regarding collections' organization and strategy, like prioritization and budget allocation;
    • Increase the efficiency of use of available physical space (especially if special storage conditions are needed or available space is restricted);
  • Facilitation of global access to objects and improvement (international) cooperation;
  • Facilitation or even enabling global and efficient research, e.g. by
  • Minimization need of physical loans of the collection;
  • Enhancement widespread visibility of collection;
  • Facilitation of access collection and thus of international and interdisciplinary cooperation;
  • Identification of possibilities for (interdisciplinary) cooperation and trends;
  • Preservation of national and international heritage and prevention of loss of (physical) objects, knowledge, and connections, e.g. by minimization of object handling and shipping (loans);
  • Virtual repatriation or data sharing;
  • Saving time, in the medium term: Responses to users will be quicker and easier. As a result, the total activity of the collection could increase and the collection staff could have more time for other activities (e.g., conservation activities, enhancement of the collection, project participation, dissemination activities);
  • Reduction or elimination of safety risks to staff, e.g. by minimization of heavy object handling in palaeontology collections.

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C 1.4 Justification for Provision, Facilitation, and Enhancement of Data Access

Background and Justification for Providing Data Access for other Scientific and Educational Institutions and General Public
There are numerous possible reasons to provide, facilitate, and enhance the data access for a range of institutions and/or the public. The institution may consider stating (and thereby formally declaring them as aims) in their MPDC. Reasons may be, e.g:

  • Public funding of the institution and a derived public mandate (see below);
  • Public mandate: institution housing collections serves common public interests and its development;
  • Maximization visibility and awareness of the institution;
  • Maximization reach and diversity of information exchange;
  • New possibilities for interdisciplinary cooperation.

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C 1.5 Justification for the Authority of an Institution to Set Requirements and Reserve Rights

Background and Justification for Procedures and Claims of the Institution
By setting a regulatory framework, the respective institution may link its service to certain requirements and may reserve several rights. The institution may consider to delineate and justify its authority, e.g. in the introductory chapter.

The following chapters (e.g., Assignments of Permissions and Licensing) do cover some potentially relevant reasons to claim specific rights. Other reasons may be (if applicable), e.g.:

  • Used resources (data or resources to produce data) are offered by institution;
  • Digital data produced at the institution are part of the collection and property of this institution (see also below);
  • Public mandate of the institution.

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C 1.6 Why Is a Guideline or Policy Needed? What Are the Benefits and Aims?

Benefits of Data Policies and Guidelines
The understanding and appreciation of the background of a regulatory framework enhances the acceptance and compliance with these regulations. The need, benefits, and aims of the specific regulations should be stated within the MPDC, e.g. in the introductory chapter.
These may be, e.g.

  • Creation of a definite framework;
  • Clarification of authorities and responsibilities;
  • Facilitation of decision making pathways/workflows and clarification of decisions;
  • Establishment of workflows and routines, thereby minimization of time effort (avoidance repetitive decision making or problem solving).

If applicable, it should be clarified that

  • Data produced and stored at the institution must be made available for and usable by this institution;
  • Data produced and stored at the institution must be made available for and usable by other institutions and/or the public (under specific conditions of use);
  • It is necessary to set quality standards for data (in terms of, e.g., resolution, available metadata and specimen data, unambiguous linkage data to object);
  • It is necessary to define requirements regarding legal aspects of material sampled and data gathered;
  • The safety, longevity, and long term readability of stored data must be ensured.

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C 1.7 Target Groups of a MPDC

As central statements of a MPDC, its aims and target groups (i.e., persons affected by regulations) should be given before going into detail. Target groups may be, e.g.

  • Employees;
  • Guests (with or without contracts);
  • Students;
  • Volunteers;
  • Practical trainees.

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C 2 Establishment and Formal Implementation of MPDC

C 2.1 Formal Implementation of a MPDC

Naturally, the regulations defined within a MPDC should be comprehensively and continuously implemented and adhered to, regularly overviewed and updated. Therefore, they need to be:

  • Understood by the persons concerned, such as staff and guests of the NH collection;
  • Accepted and supported by the persons concerned;
  • Adequate and up-to-date;
  • In accordance with legal aspects and preconstitutions.

To ensure the previous, it is recommended to consider and cover the following aspects:

  • Involvement of persons concerned (i.e., staff) in development and revision phases of MPDC;
  • Publication, promotion, and easy access of comprehensible MPDC inside and outside the institution;
  • Publication, promotion, and easy access of comprehensible, supplementary guidelines, e.g. on licensing;
  • Regular revisions of MPDC and recurrent dialogue to adjust and refine contents;
  • Revisions should be dated or versioned;
  • Agreed vocabulary and provision of a glossary;
  • Central (accessible) storage of all relevant regulations and additionally an off-site backup.

The following mechanisms to ensure comprehension of and adherence to MPDC as well as visibility, adequacy, and topicality should be described:

  • Regular revisions of the MPDC;
  • Language(s) of MPDC, including translations;
  • Publication and promotion of the MPDC;
  • Internal support of the institution for the usage of the specific MPDC;
  • National and international legal conformity;
  • Description and/or link to paperwork/forms required;
  • Description and/or link to other relevant regulations and CMP/MPDC.

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C 2.2 Authorities and Responsibilities

The MPDC needs to clearly outline:

  • Responsibilities for decisions, e.g. on:

C 2.2.1 Paperwork and Forms

The MPDC should unambiguously describe and link to the paperwork needed for the respective situation. Questions to be addressed are, e.g.:

  • Which forms need to be used/signed in which situation?
  • Who needs to sign these forms/agreements?
  • Who is responsible for the compliance with required paperwork?
  • How are the different aspects of the required paperwork communicated?

Proposed phrasings for a selection of forms can be found in the attachment.

C 2.2.2 Property Rights and Licensing

In terms of property rights and licensing, consultation with an expert is recommended.

If digital data are generated at the institution in question, the following aspects should be covered in the MPDC, e.g.:

  • Property, copyrights, and other rights;
  • (Potential) transfer of (limited) rights to institution (copyrights, usage rights, etc.);
  • Balance of interest between author/creator and institution;
  • Rights of third parties (types and definitions);
  • Licensing and credits;
  • Use of Creative Commons (CC);
  • Use and distribution;
  • (Approved) types (commercial/non-commercial, internal/external, scientific/educational/other);
  • Option of period of exclusive use, embargo mechanism;
  • Deadline for (automated?) release/publication data (following period of exclusive use);
  • Publications resulting from data (permission to use data, acknowledgments, copies);
  • Quality required;
  • Statement of authority and responsibilities

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C 2.3 Advantages of Digitization

C 2.3.1 Research
  • Improvement quality of research by more complete, comprehensive, and consistent data;
  • Facilitation (international) access to taxonomical data for identification purposes;
  • Creation of Big Data, e.g. for pattern research;
  • Transformation into a national and European infrastructure of science and knowledge;
  • Improvement and increase of basis for interdisciplinary, innovative, and integrated research;
  • Comprehensive overview and information on objects hosted at specific institution (and therefore improved access);
  • Enhanced visibility and thereby utilization of collections for scientists of other areas, like chemists and science historians.

C 2.3.2 Collections Management
  • Documentation of collections management and objects' status, improved traceability of objects;
  • Sustainable preservation information on objects for future research and minimizing doubling research efforts;
  • Increased possibility to answer requests digitally, therefore quicker, which can increase the use of the collection;
  • Fewer loans and less handling of physical objects: Decreased risk of damage and loss as well as less administration and custom issues;
  • Preparation of infrastructure for yet unknown future research techniques.

C 2.3.3 Management and Accountability
  • Increase of transparency regarding use of public money;
  • Increase of public interest, participation, and support:
  • Increase of (positive) perception in public and stabilization of role within society;
  • Compliance with educational mandate of the institution;
  • Gaining sponsorships;
  • Promotion citizen science;
  • Crowdsourcing;
  • Re-use of inventions or solutions (de facto standards) for other institutes;
  • Active participation in maintaining and innovating standards and methodologies;
  • Creation accountability of the contributions to society (supervisory board, government).

C 2.3.4 Societal
  • Provision (free) data to societal institutes and public;
  • Differentiation information dependent on different target groups;
  • Increased fact based influence on decision processes regarding subjects with biodiversity impact;
  • Raising awareness for natural history and biodiversity topics;
  • Generation and recruitment of new ambassadors for biodiversity;
  • Provision information validation, e.g. for education (e.g., updates, demystification).

C 2.3.5 Information Management
  • Facilitation cooperation and grouping of several (international) institutes to form effective and powerful competence center;
  • Facilitation efforts to become an national hub in international bio-data exchange (GBIF, Europeana/OpenUp!).

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C 3 Digitization Approaches

A summary of the digitization approach within the institution should be given, including an overall philosophy. This comprises, e.g., whether the aim is to digitize parts of the collection in depth and other parts with lower information capture (e.g., to illustrate the scope of the collection). As well, this comprises, e.g., strategies for data capture - from in depth within institution to crowdsourcing - and approaches to outsource mass digitization.

C 3.1 Prioritization

C 3.1.1 What should be digitized?

Physical objects, which should be digitized, may be of:

  • Scientific importance;
  • Cultural & historical importance;
  • Educational importance.

C 3.1.2 Master Plan

The following applies mainly to mass digitization projects and is partly based on the MfN digitization vision and strategy (1.0).
In particular, mass digitization requires a master plan, which outlines and explains the whole approach. The following should be considered:

  • General Steps:
  • Link of overall vision to digitization vision and strategy;
  • Matching and consolidation of underlying strategies and their implementation as integrated part of the institutions' overall strategy;
  • Establishment of a superordinate master plan, with clear description of aims and steps to reach these results;
  • Definition of more short-time plans subordinate to master plan;
  • Matching of internal resources with aims;
  • Recruitment of sufficient funding;
  • Infrastructure (e.g., storage);
  • Data management plan/process (including data model, workflow tools);
  • Underlying Strategies:
  • Implementation of a collections management strategy with regard to digitization process (covering, e.g., conventions, code-system unification, label policies, responsibilities);
  • Implementation of an information management strategy (covering, e.g., data ownership, process ownership, standardization, photography/scanning policies);
  • Implementation of a strategy on research data management (covering responsibilities of researchers as both providers and users of scientific data);
  • Implementation of facilities management strategies.

C 3.1.3 Recommendations

For Organization

  • Set up for permanent, temporally unlimited digitization, e.g. based on
  • Hiring future staff;
  • Development of, e.g., (employment) processes, job profiles, remunerations, staff development plans, key performance indicators;
  • Ensuring that strategic goals are adequately integrated in key performance indicators;
  • Stepwise realization of digitization: Focus on (representative) parts of several or all collections instead of digitization of whole collections at once, i.e. allowing to continue or restart usual collections work soon and to prepare new parts of collection to be digitized;
  • Ensuring clear and accepted responsibilities, e.g. regarding collection and research on the collection data (suitable and efficient information management);
  • Regular evaluation of costs and benefits of master plan and its aims;
  • Creation of interdisciplinary cooperation projects, i.e. to achieve mutual complementation and positive experience of outcomes by shared efforts;
  • Consideration of "commercial" usage (business models) (retrospective/a priori).

For the Project

  • Definition of final goals, milestones, and end date;
  • Definiton of means to:
  • Measure progress;
  • Monitor the actual versus the planned results;
  • Measure costs and efforts of staff;
  • Design of an efficient and digital communication and reporting structure;
  • Working in standardized processes only, with as little room for exceptions as possible;
  • Definition of institute-wide, globally unique and accepted standard object identification codes (globally unique identifiers);
  • Definition of obligate data entry demands (minimum requirements);
  • Decision (per standard process and collection part) on optimization of high speed/lower resolution or lower speed/high resolution scanning tools (regarding, e.g., cameras, scanners, software, processing capacity);
  • Taking costs per object as premise (in doing so, also anticipatory taking variable costs into account) and optimization of process conditions until this premise has been reached;
  • Set up of representative pilot projects, which may be upscaled to become proper projects/production units;
  • Treatment of projects/production units as if customer driven, realization of corrections as early as possible;
  • Delivery of some new results and benefits as motivating ("quick") wins;
  • Identification and appointment of staff with leadership personality;
  • Involvement of staff and comprehensive communication with target user groups on all levels.

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C 3.2 Digitization Workflows and Procedures

Procedures for each workflow need to be defined and clearly communicated.
These may differ, e.g. depending on

  • Author/creator of digital data (staff member/visiting researcher/volunteer/etc.);
  • Type of data;
  • Type of data creation/method (semi-automated/individual/etc.).

C 3.2.1 Documentation of Creation and Handling Data

The minimum quality and quantity of details to be recorded, should be defined. Details of interest may be, e.g.

  • Context of data origin;
  • Used tools/techniques of data gathering;
  • Author/creator,date;
  • Editor/date/modification.

C 3.2.2 Preparation

Particularly the realization of mass digitization requires a master plan, which outlines and explains the whole approach. The following should be considered:

  • Internal communication of master plan and its status;
  • Preparation IT capabilities;
  • Set up of required IT infrastructure with, e.g., suitable database and sufficient data storage;
  • Implementation of data policy and information standards;
  • Conversion of existing data files into standard import/export files and (automated) import in standard system;
  • Training of technicians;
  • Preparation process management;
  • Division of digitization process into modules;
  • Prioritization, institution wide;
  • Link of priorities and prioritization criteria to overall vision and digitization vision, usage of the latter as basis for decisions on priorities;
  • Distinction between collections in good shape and needy collections, which still (urgently) need revision and/or cleaning;
  • Decision if only collections in good shape or also needy collections should be digitized;
  • Preparation of collections;
  • Decision on handling needy collections;
  • Decision on handling cross-reference objects (e.g.: object related publications, images, sounds, drawings, archives, books, catalogues);
  • Subdivision collections by their handling characteristics and link related objects;
  • Ensuring adherence to schedule.

C 3.2.3 Assignments of Permissions and Licensing

The following details should or may be considered:

  • Procedures depending on, e.g.,
  • If author/creator/editor is known (depending on type of data creation);
  • If author/creator/editor is unknown;
  • Responsibilities for permissions and licensing;
  • Options of release and licensing (including credits to author/creator/editor);
  • Possibilities for objections and exceptions to regulations (concerning, e.g., authors/creators/editors with wish for anonymity);
  • Standard disclaimer;
  • Publications resulting from data:
  • Permission to use data;
  • Acknowledgments;
  • Courtesy copies.

C 3.2.4 Acquisition of Digital Resources

Are digital resources created by the institution or does the collection also acquire digital collections from elsewhere? If elsewhere, from which type of sources and under which conditions? Here, details could be given about the general institutional policy regarding other collections. Access and benefit sharing agreements or other legal agreements governing other collections may impact on the use and management of their digital surrogates.

C 3.2.5 Submission of Digital Data

If digital data are submitted to a more or less centralized management, the MPDC should clarify or decree the following issues, e.g.:

  • Responsibilities and contacts;
  • File format requested;
  • Minimum requirements regarding quality and/or quantity;
  • Resolution;
  • Metadata.

C 3.2.6 Storage of Data

This should include the institutions attitude to having centralised data holdings as opposed to collection databases held by individuals. Ideally the institution needs to have a system where any individual database can be brought into the central catalogue if it exists (cross reference to accession of digital data/collections). Important aspects of (a more or less centralized) data storage, which should be covered by a MPDC may be, e.g.,

  • Quality of data;
  • File format and software used;
  • Naming files;
  • Associated metadata;
  • Granting a permanent, unique link of physical object or specimen to associated data and files (e.g. by persistent, unique identifiers);
  • Back-up of files;
  • Submission of data (workflow);
  • Acceptance and input/feed-in data;
  • Maintenance storage/database;
  • Locality of storage, back-up;
  • Disaster recovery (including how business continues is assured if a disaster occurs);
  • Type of database and storage device.

C 3.2.7 Quality Standards

Required quality standards may concern, e.g.:

  • Overview of data standards accepted by the institution (e.g., basic data standards as according to TWDG [[1]]);
  • Resolution (images, etc.);
  • (Unambiguous) link between physical object or specimen to associate data and/or files (e.g., permanent, unique identifiers).

C 3.2.8 Deaccessioning

Statement on disposal of digital collections:

  • Does the institution envisage disposing of any digital collections?
  • What conditions would digital collections be disposed of?
  • Where would they be deposited?

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C 4 Access and Use of Digital Collection Data

The following subchapters focus on digital data created or obtained by staff members as well as visitors of the respective NH institution or (other) external users of data provided by these institutions. Visitors/external users are herein understood as persons, who are not members of the respective institution but who have an indirect (e.g. digital) (and restricted) access to the material of its collections.

General statements should explain the purpose of the digital collection in terms of its users. To gain the greatest possible benefit of digital collection data, these have to be made available. Decisions have to be made and stated, e.g. on:

  • User groups, e.g.:
  • Limited/selected user groups;
  • Public access (e.g. via world wide web);
  • Platform granting access;
  • Quality and quantity of shared data (may differ from original quality and quantity), e.g. concerning
  • Resolution;
  • File size;
  • Amount of (meta) data;
  • Long term access and long term readability (e.g. regarding file format);
  • Long term link of physical object and associated data and files;
  • Breadth and coverage of data access and other relevant details (rights, limitations, conditions);
  • Ownership and rights, e.g.
  • Citation of resource;
  • Terms of use and licensing (e.g., reproduction, publication).

To ensure relevance and to review implementation, it is recommended

  • To provide at least the relevant MPDC for visitors and external users in English, and
  • To make them easily accessible, e.g. on the internet presentation of the respective institution.

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C 4.1 Data Produced or Accessed by Internal Users

Statements should be made on digital collection data accessed and produced by staff members and other members of the institution such as volunteers. Decisions should be made on aspects such as:

  • Who owns the data staff create?
  • Does the institution own data created by its staff while employed?
  • Who manages the digital assets and has the authority to make decisions regarding its usage?
  • Citation of resource;
  • Intellectual property rights.

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C 4.2 Data Produced or Accessed by External Users

The following paragraphs cover aspects of digital data accessed or produced by (external) users of a respective NH collection. Proposed phrasings for policy templates are provided in the attachment. These templates can be used by institutions housing NH collections to be adjusted to their specific needs and to create their own MPDC. Although the templates and statements were created with great care, no guarantee can be given for correctness, accuracy, and completeness. All information is subject to change.

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C 4.2.1 General Statements

Generally, MPDC for visitors and external users should or may include statements on

  • Definition of visitors/users and data concerned;
  • Approved visitors and users;
  • Offered services;
  • Approved uses and/or objectives of activities;
  • Responsibilities and authorities;
  • Procedure of application for permission:
  • Whom to contact?
  • Which form to submit?
  • Which time span needed for response request?
  • Procedures and paperwork required for respective activities or purposes, e.g.
  • Data bases (public or in-house with external data access);
  • Loans or (more commonly) transfer of reproductions/copies of digital data (e.g., articles, images, scientific raw data; including digitization on demand);
  • Terms and conditions, e.g.
  • Fees (with explanation under which circumstances access to data may be charged, what the fee covers, etc.);
  • Insurance (e.g., for film shoots);
  • Circumstances when attribution necessary;
  • Attribution to institution/citation of author and source of materials;
  • Details on content and format of credits;
  • Courtesy copies of publications and other finished works based on or involving data provided by institution;
  • Reference to relevant international agreements such as Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), Convention on Biological Diversity and the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit sharing (see CETAF ABS guidelines);
  • Ethics;
  • If applicable: Further relevant policies and regulations.

Proposed phrasings of relevant regulations are provided in the attachment.

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C 4.2.2 Digital Data Produced by Users

These recommendations concern all data, which are produced by visitors of the respective NH collection during their stay at their host institution and which are based on the collections' material and/or the equipment provided by the host institution. However, they may also concern data produced by external borrowers of material belonging to the respective NH collection and which are based on this material. Both target groups are referred to as "users" in the following.

Digital data produced by users may cover, e.g.

  • Images, films, audio recordings;
  • Scientific raw data;
  • Other (see also here).

Statements should be made on:

  • Ownership and rights (usage rights, copyrights, etc.);
  • Quality standards of data provided;
  • Submission of digital data to (more or less) centralized management;
  • Data presentation;
  • Reusability of digital data;
  • Use of data;
  • Licensing;
  • Attribution and credits, courtesy copies;
  • Embargo (to allow publication);
  • Open access;
  • Further relevant policies and regulations;
  • If applicable: (obligate/optional) use and update (in-house) data bases.

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C 4.2.3 Data Access Procedures

Regulations governing services for external users, which comprise the transfer of digital data, generally should or may include statements on

  • Details on service (e.g., What does service offer?);
  • Overview of access sources to digital collection (including the institutions website and, if relevant, aggregators such as GBIF and Europeana);
  • Responsibilities and persons to contact;
  • Link to required paperwork;
  • Quality standards of data provided;
  • Data presentation;
  • Reusability of digital data.

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C 4.2.4 Photography, Filming, Audio Recordings

Regulations on the performance of photography, filming, and/or audio recordings at the respective NH collection and on the utilization of their products should or may include statements on

  • Approved users (Who is allowed to take photographs and/or films and/or audio recordings? Including the process for asking permission);
  • Approved areas/rooms for photography and/or filming and/or audio recordings;
  • Limitations, regarding, e.g.
  • Specimens or objects, which are not allowed to be photographed or recorded in any other manner;
  • Handling of sensitive data (e.g., data on specimens representing threatened species, type specimens, geolocation data);
  • Personal rights;
  • Approved uses (with definitions), e.g.
  • Personal uses;
  • Scientific uses;
  • Commercial uses;
  • Educational uses;
  • Details of approved methods, e.g.
  • Recorder type (e.g., handheld camera);
  • Usage of flashlight;
  • Terms and conditions, e.g.
  • Fees;
  • Insurance (e.g., for film shoots);

Proposed phrasings of relevant contents are provided in the attachment.

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C 4.2.5 Databases

This may comprise diverse kinds of databases and their user interfaces, which are either (fully or limited) accessible by public (e.g., via World Wide Web) or which are only accessible by members of the institution and their visitors and/or (approved) external users (in-house).

Regulations on these databases should or may include statements on

  • Definition of specific service;
  • Purpose and idea of service, envisaged users;
  • Access to service and its components;
  • Structure, organization, and content of service, underlying data model;
  • Maintenance and quality management;
  • Personal rights/privacy issues (regarding storage personal data of users);
  • Ethics (e.g., regarding software licenses users and creators);
  • Responsibilities and persons to contact;
  • Use, reproduction, and publication;
  • Disclaimer;
  • Ownership and rights (e.g., usage rights, copyrights);
  • Licensing;
  • Attribution and credits, courtesy copies;
  • Legal aspects of acquisition and provenance of objects;
  • Backup, recovery, and roll back procedures;
  • Access control;
  • If applicable: Further relevant policies and regulations.

Proposed phrasings of relevant regulations are provided in the attachment.

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C 4.2.6 Material Provision

Here, "material provision" is understood as any exchange or (unidirectional, outward directed) transfer of digital data with or without the associated specimen. Material provided may be, e.g.,

  • Images of specimens and objects (e.g., photographs, digital drawings, scans);
  • Copies (e.g., articles, book chapters);
  • Output of (in-house) databases (e.g., information on type material at institution, locality information for selected specimens);
  • Scientific raw data (e.g., measurements).

Regulations on material provision (as defined above) should or may include statements on

  • Ordering process and link to request form;
  • Responsibilities and persons to contact;
  • Details on permission agreements/assignment permissions (to third parties);
  • (Early) termination of permission agreement;
  • Use, reproduction, and publication of material provided;
  • Specific rights explicitly granted or denied, e.g.,
  • Right to reproduce the material provided;
  • Right to distribute the material provided;
  • Conditions of these granted rights, e.g.,
  • Right is nonexclusive and nontransferable;
  • Permission for one-time use only;

Proposed phrasings to relevant regulations are provided in the attachment.

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D: Related Links and Documents

For more information on relevant topics, see, e.g.

  • American Alliance of Museums: Developing a Collections Management Policy (Alliance Reference Guide) [[2]];
  • Berliner Erklärung über den offenen Zugang zu wissenschaftlichem Wissen [[3]];
  • Creative Commons [[4]];
  • DFG - Open Access Publizieren [[5]];
  • Internet Portal on Open Access to Scientific Information [[6]] [[7]];
  • Museum accreditation guidelines UK (useful for collections management policy generally, but it also covers issues which are applicable to digital collections) [[8]];
  • Open Access in der Leibniz-Gemeinschaft [[9]][[10]];
  • Plazi [[11]];
  • Policy Statement "Common Principles on Digital Data produced by External Users of NH Collections" (a SYNTHESYS3 output) [[12]];
  • The Bouchout Declaration for Open Biodiversity Knowledge Management [[13]].

The recommendations on Management Policy on Digital Collections, which are presented here, are also based on already existing CMP of different institutions, e.g.

  • Naturhistoriska Riksmuseet, Stockholm, Sweden;
  • Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University, New Haven, USA.

For the whole present document: No responsibility or liability for the content of external links are assumed!

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E: Glossary

CM Collections Management
CMP Collections Management Policy/Collections Management Policies
CSIC Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas
JRA Joint Research Activity
MfN Museum für Naturkunde Berlin
MPDC Management Policy on Digital Collections/Management Policies on Digital Collections
NA Network Activity
NH Natural History
NHM Natural History Museum London
NHMW Naturhistorisches Museum Wien
NMP Národní museum Prague
RBGK Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
RBGE Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
RMCA Royal Museum of Central Africa
UCPH University of Copenhagen

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F: Attachment (Proposed Phrasings)

F 1 Licensing and Open Access - Proposed Phrasing

"All ____________ [material, e.g.: digital photographs] [taken/produced/...] at ____________ [name institution] have to be made available to ____________ [name institution/...]. A Creative Commons ____________ [name license] licence is required ( ____________ [short description license] )."

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F 2 Attribution and Credits - Proposed Phrasing

"If using, reproducing, publishing, presenting or redistributing digital data of any format obtained from the ____________ [name institution] and its services, attribution to the ____________ [name institution] must be provided. The author and source of material must be cited. For each publication, a copy should be sent to ____________ [responsible person, e.g.: respective collections manager]. For details of credits, see ____________ [details of attribution, e.g.: credit line of record]. Citations and credits should be given in the following format: ____________ [example for format]."

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F 3 Courtesy Copies - Proposed Phrasing

"One copy of the final product or publication must be provided to the ____________ [name institution] and, for this purpose, sent to ____________ [responsible person, e.g.: respective collections manager]."
"For each publication, a copy should be sent to ____________ [responsible person, e.g.: respective collections manager]."

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F 4 Credit Line - Proposed Phrasing

"A credit line indicating the origin of the material and acknowledging the ____________ [name institution] must be included in every use of the resulting material. Credits should be given in the following format ____________ [example]."

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F 5 Disclaimer, Data Provision - Proposed Phrasing

"In all cases, no liability can be assumed for the correctness and completeness of the data provided."
"With provision of the agreed ____________ [material], no warranties, either expressed or implied, are made as to any matter, including suitability of material provided for particular purposes, or against infringements of the rights of third parties, or ____________ [other potential warranty cases]. To clarify any issues on a specific matter, the user should make a written information request to the person responsible [e.g. collection manager]."

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F 6 Fees - Proposed Phrasing

"If appropriate, details on due fees will be given on approval of the request. All fees are payable by ____________ [date]. The ____________ [name institution] accepts ____________ [accepted payment methods]."

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F 7 Policies, Further - Proposed Phrasing

"All aspects of ____________ [respective issue] are governed by this document and ____________ [respective policies]."

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F 8 Request Form, Link - Proposed Phrasing

"A request form is available at ____________ [link to request form]."

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F 9 Use of Institutions Name - Proposed Phrasing

"Except for ____________ [approved circumstances, e.g.: scientific publications] and credits, the name of the ____________ [name institution] should not be used by the ____________ [e.g. licensee] for ____________ [disapproved circumstances, e.g.: publications, promotional materials, and advertising] without prior written permission by ____________ [name institution]. The ____________ [e.g. licensee] is ____________ [e.g. an independent contractor] and it is forbidden to express or imply that the ____________ [e.g. licensee] is an agent or legal representative of the ____________ [name institution].

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F 10 Digital Representations - Proposed phrasing

"Digital representations of physical specimens or objects as well as reproductions of digital data of any kind, which are provided by ____________ [service, e.g., data base], are only approximations of the originals, and although they were created with great care and checked for discrepancies, guarantee of complete accuracy cannot be given. In all cases, no liability can be assumed for the correctness and completeness of the data provided.

The ____________ [service, e.g., data base] provides ____________ [details on content provided] and aims to ____________ [envisaged uses/aims]. For general requests, contact ____________ [responsible person, e.g., respective collections manager]. For permission to publish or to commercially use contents provided by the service, contact ____________ [responsible person]. A request form is available at ____________ [link to request form]. On approval of ____________ [requested use, e.g., publication, commercial use], detailed information on licensing are given. A credit line indicating the origin of the material and acknowledging the ____________ [name institution] must be included in every use of the resulting material. One copy of the final product must be provided to the ____________ [name institution].

All aspects concerning ____________ [respective service, e.g., data base] are governed by this document and ____________ [respective policies]."

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F 11 Photography, Filming, Audio Recordings - Proposed Phrasing

"With certain limitations, the ____________ [name institution] permits ____________ [approved users] to take photographs, films, and/or audio recordings at its collections. In general, photographing, filming, and audio recording are allowed for ____________ [approved purposes] and only under these conditions: ____________ [conditions, methods]. Explicit limitations and exceptions concern ____________ [limitations and exceptions] or will be, specifically for the given situation, communicated to requestor by ____________ [responsible person]. Photographing, filming, and/or audio recording may be prohibited in certain collections or areas of the ____________ [name institution] and the ____________ [institution name] reserves the right to refuse requests not appropriate to the institutions mission. At all times, the ____________ [name institution] reserves the right to withhold or withdraw permission to photograph, film, and/or audio record on its premises.

Photographing, filming, and audio recording in the ____________ [name institution] collections always need a prior permission. All requests for permission to photograph or film specimens and objects or to take audio recordings at the ____________ [name institution] collections must be submitted in writing to the ____________ [responsible person, e.g.: respective collections manager] in advance. A request form is available at ____________ [link to request form]. Unusual requests (e.g., ____________ [examples unusual requests]) will be forwarded to and require approval from ____________ [responsible person]. Generally, approval of requests is subject to availability of staff and space.

For detailed information on licensing these works of art, [contact/see] ____________ [responsible person/link respective regulations]. A credit line indicating the origin of the material and acknowledging the ____________ [name institution] must be included in every use of the resulting material. One copy of the final product must be provided to the ____________ [name institution].

Any reproduction [for sale] of such photographs, films, and/or audio recordings without the advance written permission of the ____________ [name institution] is prohibited. For requests on commercial uses, allow ____________ [time span] for response and ____________ [time span] for decision on permission and for scheduling the proposed project. A concept of the project must be submitted with the request form. If appropriate, details on due fees will be given on approval of the request. All fees are payable by ____________ [date]. The ____________ [name institution] accepts ____________ [accepted payment methods].

All permissions for photography, filming, and/or audio recordings are governed by this document and ____________ [respective policies]."

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F 12 Databases - Proposed Phrasing

"The purpose of the ____________ [name service] provided by ____________ [name institution] is to ____________ [purpose]. Access to the ____________ [name service] and its contents is envisaged for ____________ [approved users/target groups]. A ____________ [name service/underlying idea] is defined here as ____________ [definition of service]. The ____________ [name service] of the ____________ [name institution] is [structured/organized] as follows: ____________ [structure/organization service]. It provides ____________ [contents service].

The ____________ [name service] and its contents are property of ____________ [name institution], along with all rights in such property. No liability is assumed for ____________ [e.g.: completeness and accuracy of data provided by service]. Responsibilities for ____________ [name of service and/or providing system] rest with ____________ [responsible institution/division/person/...]. Full access to and manipulation of ____________ [components of service (e.g.: hardware, source codes)] are restricted to ____________ [approved administrators]. The ____________ [responsible institution/division/person/...] ensures appropriate physical and electronic access to ____________ [name service] and the integrity of the ____________ [name service] system. The ____________ [name service] is maintained ____________ [details on maintenance]. The ____________ [responsible institution/division/person/...] regularly assess the accuracy of information provided by ____________ [name service]. Access to contents of ____________ [name service] by ____________ [approved users] is authorized by ____________ [responsible institution/division/person/...].

For detailed information on the use and licenses of the contents provided by ____________ [name service], [contact/see] ____________ [responsible person / link respective regulations]. A credit line indicating the origin of the material and acknowledging the ____________ [name institution] must be included in every use of the material. One copy of any final product based on the data obtained must be provided to the ____________ [name institution].

Staff of ____________ [name institution] and users of ____________ [name service] are expected to use only legally obtained computing software and hardware, to respect property rights and related principles, and to follow all relevant policies and procedures at ____________ [name institution].

The use and conditions of ____________ [name service] and its contents are governed by this document and ____________ [other relevant policies]."

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F 13 Material Provision - Proposed phrasing

"Copies of digital data in possession of the ____________ [name institution] may be provided to a licensee if a permission agreement between both parties comes into effect. The permission issued by the ____________ [name institution] states [(among others)] the approved rights of the licensee, e.g. the right to ____________ [uses/rights granted, e.g.: to reproduce the material provided], and the associated conditions, e.g. ____________ [conditions]. No part of the ____________ [material] shall be reproduced or used in any other form or way without prior written permission of ____________ [name institution]. Any reproduction of the ____________ [material] must include a credit line as indicated in ____________ [link to details on credit line]. If ____________ [name institution] does not hold the copyright of the ____________ [material] provided, the licensee has to obtain the permission of the copyright holder prior to publication, to pay all necessary fees in connection with such permission, and to hold the ____________ [name institution] harmless in the event that such permission is not granted.

If the licensee fails to keep, perform, or observe the terms and conditions of the permission agreement, the ____________ [name institution] has the right to untimely terminate the permission agreement. The termination notification will be delivered to the licensee by ____________ [details on termination notification, e.g.: advance warning time, form]. During the advance warning time, if applicable, the licensee has the right to remedy such failure(s). When ____________ [name institution] receives evidence of such remedy, the termination notice becomes obsolete.

The ____________ [name institution] at all times retains all rights to the ____________ [material], including copyright where applicable. The licensee shall take responsibility and due care to protect these rights. Except for ____________ [approved circumstances, e.g. scientific publications] and credits, the name of the ____________ [name institution] should not be used by the licensee for publications, promotional materials, and advertising without prior written permission by ____________ [name institution]. The licensee is an independent contractor and it is forbidden to express or imply that the licensee is an agent or legal representative of the ____________ [name institution].

With provision of the agreed ____________ [material], no warranties, either expressed or implied, are made as to any matter, including suitability of material provided for particular purposes, or against infringements of the rights of third parties, or ____________ [other potential warranty cases]. To clarify any issues on a specific matter, the user should make a written information request to the person responsible (e.g. collection manager).

The licensee is not allowed to assign the permission issued by ____________ [name institution] to any third party without the prior express written consent of the ____________ [name institution]. Any unauthorized assignment to third parties is invalid.

A copy of each finished work (e.g. publication), which is based on or refers to the ____________ [material] provided, has to be sent to the ____________ [name institution] by the licensee.

All requests for permission must be submitted in writing to the ____________ [responsible person, e.g.: respective collections manager] in advance. A request form is available at ____________ [link to request form]. The ____________ [name institution] will endeavor to decide on and provide the requested ____________ [material] within ____________ [time span]. The requested ____________ [material] will be sent ____________ [details on delivery]. On completion of the permitted ____________ [uses, e.g., reproduction] or by the agreed deadline, the licensee shall return any ____________ [material], if applicable, to ____________ [name institution], in the same condition as delivered to licensee. Purchased ____________ [material] need not be returned, unless specifically requested. Additional fees have to be paid by licensees in case of ____________ [cases in which additional fees arise, e.g.: late return, damage or loss material], as indicated in the ____________ [link fee schedule]."

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