Rescuing a Valuable Data Collection Using Non-Traditional Means

In this 2020 video John Pring (Geoscience Australia) and Julia Martin (ARDC) discuss a case study in rescuing valuable data by harnessing the power of citizen science. 

Webinar description:

Since the federation of Australia in 1901 Geoscience Australia, and its predecessor organisations, have amassed a significant collection of microscope slides of a variety of physical samples from across Australia, Antarctica, and adjacent regions. The extensive nature of the collection and the diverse and often remote nature of the source locations means that the cost of recreating the collection, if possible, would be $AU100Ms. The original samples were collected as part of either extensive government geological mapping programs or more specific scientific expeditions conducted for major Government initiatives. They are technically open to anyone (industry, educational institutions, the public), but are essentially unknown and almost impossible to access.

Management of this collection was based on an aged card catalogue and ledger system developed in the pre-digital era. The aged management system, with increasing deterioration of the physical media, combined with loss of access to even some of the original contributors meant that rescue work was needed. Rescuing the collection made use of non-traditional means, including the extensive use of web-based citizen science and reference to a small number of onsite volunteers. Through essentially a volunteer effort, from a group more used to biology related items, the project has seen the transcription of some 40,000 sample metadata records (more than 2.5 times our current electronic holdings). The metadata for these microscope slides is now available via the web and includes the linkages to paper and the parent sample via IGSNs.

This webinar will examine the process undertaken and advocates the approach that has made it successful. It promotes the value and benefits to Geoscience Australia, participating volunteers and potential users of the collection.

Presenter: John Pring, Project Manager, Place Space and Communities Division, Geoscience Australia