Recognizing the vital role of museum collections in supporting interdisciplinary research and fostering open science

This week we are thrilled to attend and sponsor the Natural History Museum’s Student Conference on the 2-3 March 2020. The event is a great opportunity for student researchers working across the Natural History Museum’s vast natural sciences collections to come together and present their findings and receive feedback. So far the event has been filled with engaging posters and presentations from a wide variety of subjects, from marine biology to taxonomy to paleontology, all providing useful insights on the many research directions these collections support.

Museum collections have supported and fostered an immense amount of interdisciplinary research over the years, both within museums themselves but also across the academic research community, and they continue to offer productive spaces for public engagement with research and the communication of scientific approaches to solving pressing societal issues. As an open-access publisher committed to demonstrating the value of rigor and openness in science, we find considerable overlap in our mission and museum collections’ own values and remit.

Given the extensive overlap in aims, we are proud to be awarding two PeerJ Awards at the event, one for Best Poster and Best Oral Presentation. We hope that every student researcher that has participated has learned from the process of sharing their work with their peers and will continue to progress in their research and communication efforts. And of course, when it comes to publishing their work, we hope they seek out a publishing partner that shares their values and aims!

We thought we would take the opportunity to highlight some recent work published in PeerJ – the Journal of Life and Environmental Sciences that also builds on and supports research within museum collections.

The Global Museum: natural history collections and the future of evolutionary science and public education by Bakker et al. (2020)

Estimating the potential biodiversity impact of redeveloping small urban spaces: the Natural History Museum’s grounds by Phillips et al. (2017)

Genetic data of museum specimens allow for inferring evolutionary history of the cosmopolitan genus Sirthenea (Heteroptera: Reduviidae) by Chłond et al. (2019)

A century of waiting: description of a new Epictia Gray, 1845 (Serpentes: Leptotyphlopidae) based on specimens housed for more than 100 years in the collection of the Natural History Museum Vienna (NMW) by Koch et al. (2019)

Inferring microevolution from museum collections and resampling: lessons learned from Cepaea by Ozgot al. (2016)

Preserving and vouchering butterflies and moths for large-scale museum-based molecular research by Cho et al. (2016)