Maintaining accurate information on plant collections is fundamental for their use for science, conservation and other purposes. Advances in technology have made it possible for most collection holders to maintain their records on a computer; and have enabled the rapid transfer of data among individual collection holders and co-ordinating bodies. Whilst the simplest record systems allow the storage and retrieval of basic plant information, more powerful systems can make a significant contribution to the scientific management of living collections. Standards such as the International Transfer Format for Botanic Garden Plant Records have been developed to facilitate minimum data standards and easy transfer of data.
A high standard of record-keeping enhances a collection and it follows that investment in plants and their curation – a not inconsiderable cost – is largely wasted if appropriate documentation does not remain with the material throughout its life in the collection, and after. The requirement of legislative instruments such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) are putting ever greater demands on collection holders to retain particular data (see Policy M). In particular wild collected material from many countries and larger collections will nowadays be accompanied by Mutually Agreed Terms (MAT), when first collected, or Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) when passed to a third party. Keeping records of such transfers is important to ensure that the original terms are honoured and maintained.
PlantNetwork aims to:
- promote the development and maintenance of information systems for plant collections, both within individual collections and amongst the network
- promote best practice in record-keeping amongst its members
- act as a clearing house for information on plant collections maintained by its members
- provided appropriate training opportunities for members on record-keeping, data standards, and methodologies, primarily through the PlantNetwork Plant Records Group, which has held nine meetings
To maintain these achievements, PlantNetwork will:
- continue to promote meetings of the PlantNetwork Plant Records Group
- provide information to members on appropriate policies, data standards and advice on available equipment and software as downloadable documents on the web site
- promote the exchange of data and an understanding of the use of data transfer standards amongst the membership
- co-operate with such organisations as Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) and the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) in helping to document plants held in collections in Britain and Ireland
- by conducting a survey of scientific usage of collections (as mentioned in policy B) – to produce an index of expertise, products and examples of ways in which living plants from collections have been used for scientific purposes. This will highlight the value of good and accurate records to plant collection holders wishing to contribute to science
The following policies are also relevant in delivering the policy on Standards of Record-keeping: