Why should I register my institution and collections?

GenBank and the other two members of the International Nucleotide Sequence Database Collaboration (EMBL and DDBJ) have approved a new structured format for the specimen_voucher data field. Submitters may still enter information on their voucher specimens as free text, but the new structured format will enable hyperlinking to specimen records.

This registry will be used by GenBank, EMBL, and DDBJ as the controlled vocabulary for linking to voucher specimen records.

Where did this list of Institution Codes come from?

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI, GenBank's parent organization) assembled a database of about 7,000 institution codes from several sources:

  • Published compendia of biorepositories such as Index Herbariorum,
  • Lists of discipline-specific biorepositories published in professional journals, and
  • Institution codes submitted with GenBank records.

Who will use the data?

GenBank, EMBL, and DDBJ will use the registered data as a look-up table for building hyperlinks to specimen databases. The registered data will also be made freely available through the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) and the Biodiversity Collection Index (BCI), an initiative launched by GBIF to assemble metadata about natural history collections.

NCBI, GBIF, and CBOL hope that this online database of registered collection information will make it easier for researchers to exchange information on the specimens stored in biorepositories.

What is the new structured format for voucher specimen data?

The structured datafield that GenBank, EMBL and DDBJ will use for voucher specimens has three parts, separated by colons (:)

institutionCode:collectionCode:catalogNumber such us UAM:Mamm:86887M

These three data elements, used in conjunction, should be a pointer to a unique specimen in the catalog database of a biorepository. It is not designed to point to a derivative part of a specimen (e.g., frozen tissue sample, DNA extract) because the voucher specimen is the source of the nucleotide sequence stored in GenBank.

How is this related to LSIDs?

The Life Science Identifiers (LSIDs) are another system for uniquely identifying a biological object. An LSID standard was recently approved by the Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG, formerly the Taxonomic Database Working Group). LSIDs enable the construction of LSID resolvers that can answer database queries.

The Darwin Core triplet (institutionCode:collectionCode:catalogNumber) can be incorporated into an LSID query and should produce the same result.

What should I do if I find that there is another institution with the same code as my institution in the database?

Please send a message to GRBio@si.edu or use the Contact Us feature.

What should I do if my institution uses several different codes for different collections?

Some institutions use more than one institution code, for historical reasons. For example, the National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution uses the institution code 'USNM' for some of its collections and 'NMNH' for others. Simply register both institution code and then register the associated collections under each code.

Please note that even though an institution can use several codes, each collection must be registered under only one code. For example, insects are a collection under the code USNM, but the ?? collection uses the code NMNH.

How can I delete a record?  Our institution has changed its Institution Code and we no longer use the one that's registered in GRBio.

GRBio is meant to be a registry for current and past biorepositories so we don't want people to delete old records.  In cases where an institution has changed names, InstitutionCodes, or even stopped operating, the Status should be changed to Inactive.  We also ask you to enter an explanation at the end of the Description datafield, explaining the reason why the status has changed and directing users to the current record of the institution.

I created a record but then realized that I entered the name incorrectly.  I created a new record with correct information but I can't find a way to delete the incorrect record.  How do I delete an entire record?

Only GRBio's moderator can delete an entire record.  Please use the Contact GRBio link at the bottom of each page to send us a request to delete a record with a brief explanation.  Please note that GRBio retains records for inactive institutions and collections with information directing users to the records for the relevant active institutions and collections.

My institution has used several different codes in the past but we only use one now. I can register the active code but what should I do about the old ones?

Please register the current Institution Code and in the Notes area, include a list of Institution Codes that have been used for this institution in the past. You can also send a message with this information to GRBio@si.edu (or use the Contact Us feature on the website). We will change the status of your current Institution Code to 'Confirmed' and the status of the old Institution Codes to 'Discontinued', with a note directing people to the active code.

My institution has absorbed 'orphaned' collections from other institutions. Under which code should these collections be registered?

If the collection now belongs to your institution (as opposed to being a long-term loan), then the collection should be registered under your Institution Code. However, you may want to use the old Institution Code as part of its Collection Code. For example, your bird collection might have the Collection Code 'ORN' under the institution code 'MyInst'. A collection of birds you absorbed could be 'OldInstBirds' under the code 'MyInst', which could provide better access to their original records. If they are to be catalogued under 'ORN', then the two specimen numbering systems must be distinct and non-redundant.

What about specimens in personal research collections?

Individual researchers and private collectors are also encouraged to register their collections. This will allow others to locate these specimens if they are needed and will make it easier to track them if and when they are accessioned into a museum or other institutional collection.

Collections held by individuals will all be labeled with the shared institution code 'personal' and the Collection Code registered on this website. Individual researchers and private collectors should select "Non-Institutional Collections" to register their collections.