The Distributed System of Scientific Collections UK

There are an estimated 650 natural science collections in the UK and 94 of these contributed to our 2022 survey to understand the size, diversity, origin an current levels of digitisation. The UK holds more than 137 million specimens recorded from 83 institutions and collected from across the world.

DiSSCo UK seeks to become a one-stop, dynamic, openly available and easy-to-use e-science infrastructure, integrating digital access to UK natural science collections. Through a hub and spoke model of digitisation at national, regional and local levels DiSSCo will:

  • Empower the UK network of collections through digitisation
  • Enhance UK biodiversity and heritage information infrastructure
  • Improve data quality
  • Deliver relevant data

Benefits of UK natural science collections

Scientific Benefits

Natural science collections are a critical resource for scientists advancing knowledge that informs challenging global issues including climate change, biodiversity conservation, resourcing the green economy and our response to pandemics such as COVID-19.

Societal Benefits

Natural science collections connect and empower society, inspiring a lifelong love of nature, are the source of educational material for generations and provide communities with data and knowledge, as well as involving them in its creation and interpretation.

Economic Benefits

Digitisation of natural science digitisation has the potential to deliver a tenfold return on investment, creating benefits in excess of £2 billion over 30 years.

DiSSCo Data

DiSSCo UK will adopt the relatively mature data standards and technologies that have already been developed within the global natural science collections community. All data generated through the network is both open and FAIR (Findable, Interoperable, Accessible and Reproducible).


We would like to thank the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for their support and guidance in the preparation of this report (Grant number AH/W006715/1) and especially thank the 94 UK natural science collections who generously provided their time and data to develop the concept of DiSSCo UK.

Understand more about DiSSCo resources