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The National Biological Data System, Ministry of Science Technology and Innovation of Production of Argentina

Cristina Damborenea et Edgardo Romero
p. 200-204
Cet article est une traduction de :
Le Système National des Données Biologiques, Ministère de la Science, la Technologie et l’Innovation Productive d’Argentine

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1To know our planet’s biodiversity remains one of the great challenges that still face biologists today. The specimens preserved in the collections of Natural History are one of the most consulted sources in order to know the diversity of species. The information of and access to those collections was known or handled informally and exclusively by experts from specialized institutions. By the end of the twentieth century, biological collections started to become available for the scientific community, public managers, educators and society in general thanks to technological advances in digitization of the information stored.

2In this context, some Argentine institutions such as the Darwinion Institute of Botany (IBODA) and the Argentine Museum of Natural Sciences “Bernardino Rivadavia” (MACN) took the initiative to promote the organization, standardization and digitization of biological collections in the late nineties.

3From individual efforts of some curators, institutions began to work in both directions: internal coordination and external articulation with colleagues from other institutions. The main motivation to begin this task of digitization was the positive experience in other countries showing the power and the potential for the research activity of managing databases with the information of collections from various museums and institutes.

4In 2001, a large global database of species started to be fostered worldwide: the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF;​index.php?id=269). The MACN contacted researchers involved in this facility to allow the Museum to participate in this initiative as the Argentine Node and to nucleate information of hundreds of collections of our country through the so called Red Nacional de Colecciones Biológicas, RNC (National Network of Biological Collections) in 2003, led by MACN.

5This network was formed informally by institutions and researchers who needed an answer to the following question: Where can the existing biological collections be found? Hundreds of collections started to be included in the RNC network but with uneven involvement mainly due to differences between disciplines and institutional experiences.

6This first experience allowed our country to participate in the GBIF’s “Seed Fund” sponsored program for medium-sized projects. Although amounts assigned were not big, the “Seed Fund” was the first grant for digitizing biological collections in our country and was crucial to identify the existence of numerous collections and to reunite curators nationwide.

7Throughout this experience, the RNC learned that GBIF was flexible enough to accept projects adapted to the specific needs of Argentine collections. Also, making visible the existence of a huge number of species and specimens with no references to that time highlighted the heritage value of the biological data collections to the scientific community. By participating as GBIF node, the RNC received support from other organizations such as the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Ibero-American Program of Science and Technology for Development (CYTED).

But this work also revealed two problems. On one hand, the low recognition of scientists engaged in tasks of generation, maintenance and dissemination of biological collections and data. And on the other hand, the continuity of funding to carry out and ensure a sustainable work of digitization and preservation.

Creation of the National System of Biological Data

8Fortunately, a favourable context for the assumption and solving of problems associated to the data collections would open with the creation of the Ministry of Science Technology and Innovation of Production of Argentina (MinCyT) in 2007. Within the framework of the new policies promoted by the MinCyT, the System of Biological Data was created in June 20091, in order to provide accessibility and visibility to biological collections. The creation of the SNDB revitalized and reorganized that first experience of the RNC, making the most of its ties and links and generating new opportunities for data exchange based on trust between institutional providers and reinforcing the belief that the digitization process should continue and multiply in Argentina.

9The SNDB meant, in this sense, the first signs of a scientific policy of articulation to answer to the needs of biological collections.

The SNDB’s main objectives are:

  • To promote the exchange of information through a biotic nationwide data network.

  • To discuss and agree joint policies on data quality and distribution.

  • To Increase and improve the accessibility of information and to keep it updated.

  • To provide international renown to biological data produced in the country through its dissemination in virtual networks.

  • To promote and consolidate appropriate conditions of maintenance and management of collections, contributing to the training of human resources.

  • To provide basic knowledge of biodiversity to the general public, under clear rules and procedures.

Organizational Structure

10The SNDB has an Advisory Council composed of experts representing all national institutions of scientific research and Technological development and over a hundred universities represented on the Inter-institutional Council on Science and Technology (CICYT). The Advisory Council is the body that discusses and evaluates projects, priorities and activities on digitization of biodiversity data. It is responsible for assessing applications of the institutions that voluntarily wish to join this National System and add their collections to the SNDB portal as well as to apply for financial aid. It is also the permanent consultative body of the Ministry to decisions concerning, inter alia, the design and coordination of training programs or the application of standards, protocols and procedures for the data’s quality control.

11The SNDB also counts on a coordinating secretary as the central node that administers the joining and granting processes, as well as the national portal2 that allows visualization of the data.


12The SNDB Data Portal software was provided by GBIF as well as technical assistance for installation and administration. This portal allows direct access to data from different sources facilitating taxonomic and geographic search and helping institutions to enhance standardization in processing data collections.

13Regarding standards, the SNDB adopted international recommendations for data management coming from GBIF, taking advantage of its large experience and of its guidelines that were flexible enough to be adapted to the needs of local organization of data.

14It’s important to note that the SNDB Portal is based on a distributed system consisting of a central node located at the MinCyT and which hosts the unified database ensuring that data providers, the Institutional nodes, share general standards. This kind of system allows institutions to keep their data and the central node is responsible for providing access to them through the Data Portal.

15SNDB is currently composed of 37 institutions with a total of 161 collections with various types of digital objects and from different regions of our country. These collections have approximately 11 million records of species.

The SNDB has specific funding lines for strengthening databases through subsidizing computing equipment and temporary resources for digitization, as well as training activities. Thus, the number of records in the Portal is increased gradually as projects are implemented. At the beginning of 2012, the Advisory Council decided to allow the accession of observational data groups to the SNDB Portal deepening the scope of national policies on preservation and open access to information.

National Law and Open Access Repositories

16The House of Representatives of the National Congress of Argentina approved last November 2013 a bill promoted by the MinCyT that requires to all the national research centres that receive public funds, to create institutional open access digital repositories in which researchers should deposit their research results. The scientific production to be published in digital repositories includes technical and scientific papers, academic theses, journal articles, primary data, among other results reached through publicly funded research activity by researchers, technologists, teachers, students of master, doctorate and post-doctorate careers.

17Interoperability conditions for digital repositories will be established by the National System of Digital Repositories (SNRD), another initiative of the Ministry’s Program of Databases to ensure open access to the scientific production from a unique national portal.

Achievements and Future Prospects

18In recent years the scientific community has taken hold in the importance of the digitization and access to biodiversity information through data portal under standard patterns. The creation of SNDB and its portal has collaborated to preservation, access and visibility of biological data.

19The SNDB has also helped to point the needed recognition to the work of curators since they are devoted and dedicated to both tasks, physical and digital management of collections that are a crucial source of information.

20SNDB, as part of one of the main policies of the Ministry to articulate the national scientific system, will have to face new challenges to keep increasing the number of data published in the Portal, as well as the number of users to whom this tool become one of the most important sources of consultation on biodiversity.

21To achieve this goal, the commitment of MINCYT is to continue offering facilities, initiatives and funds to work with all research institutions, regardless of their size, aiming to preserve and disseminate the information of biological heritage of Argentina.

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Référence papier

Cristina Damborenea et Edgardo Romero, « The National Biological Data System, Ministry of Science Technology and Innovation of Production of Argentina », Netcom, 27-1/2 | 2013, 200-204.

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Cristina Damborenea et Edgardo Romero, « The National Biological Data System, Ministry of Science Technology and Innovation of Production of Argentina », Netcom [En ligne], 27-1/2 | 2013, mis en ligne le 18 juin 2014, consulté le 20 juin 2018. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/netcom.1326

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Cristina Damborenea

Museo de La Plata, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y Museo, Universidad Nacional de La Plata. Paseo del Bosque s/n, 1900 La Plata, Argentina.

Edgardo Romero

Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales, Av. Ángel Gallardo 470, C1405DJR, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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