Part 3
Projects & Landmarks
Environment / Project


Distributed System of Scientific Collections

Data-intensive frontier research through unified access to European natural science collections


The Distributed System of Scientific Collections (DiSSCo) is a new pan-European Research Infrastructure with the vision to place European natural science collections at the centre of data-intensive scientific excellence and innovation for taxonomic and environmental research, food security, health, and the bioeconomy. DiSSCo mobilises, links and delivers currently fragmented biodiversity and geodiversity information at a scale, form and precision required, tooling scientists to address major challenges of the Anthropocene.

The new RI introduces a step change by massively improving the capacity of scientists to discover, access and analyse complex and previously disjoined information deriving from the study of the vast European natural science collections.


Natural science collections are an integral part of the global natural and cultural capital. They include hundreds of millions of animals, plants, fossils, rocks, minerals and meteorites, which account for 55% of the natural sciences collections globally and represent 80% of the world biodiversity and geodiversity. Data derived from these collections underpin countless innovations, including tens of thousands of scholarly publications and o􀀮fficial reports – supporting legislative processes relating to health, food security, sustainability and environmental change; inventions and products critical to our bioeconomy, databases, maps and descriptions of scientific observations, instructional material for education, and informational material for the public.

DiSSCo directly addresses the current fragmentation of European collections, by transforming a network of institutions into a coherent RI: a one-stop-shop for European collections, collection data and associated expertise. DiSSCo unifies 115 leading natural science collection facilities in 21 countries and has a concrete plan for further expansion. DiSSCo will deploy its service portfolio under four classes and for a broad range of users: i) e-science services – unfied discovery, access, interpretation and analysis of complex linked biodiversity and geodiversity data, through a single-entry point; ii) transnational and remote access – universal pan-European physical access and digitisation-on-demand services for all major European collections; iii) support & training – integrated user support desk and open multi-modal training programmes to enhance digital skills across users; iv) Joint Research Programming – prioritisation and support of data-driven innovation-led joint programmes, building on the combined capacity of hundreds of European institutions.

steps for implementation

DiSSCo represents the outcome of signficant scientific and socio-technical investments, started in 2004, enabling to design a pan-European RI, which unifies European natural collections into a single virtual organisation. Such infrastructure would massively widen the scientific reach of data linked to collections and leverage the impact of distributed facilities.

The European natural science collections develop DiSSCo as an integrated RI to provide unified access and analysis services, building on the super-advanced community – the CETAF network – and on multiple previous access programmes – e.g. SYNTHESIS. Since 2016, DiSSCo has engaged with strong scientific, managerial and technical leaders to prepare for its implementation plan. Each of the DiSSCo national nodes will identify complementary thematic priorities, relevant to the delivery of the DiSSCo service portfolio, ensuring alignment to national Strategies for Smart Specialisation (RIS3), and in support of a knowledge-driven regional growth.

legal status
political support
lead country
prospective member countries
The full list of research institutions involved must be found in the website of the RI
Roadmap Entry
Design Phase
Preparation Phase
Implementation/Construction Phase
Operation Start
estimated costs
capital value
420.3 M€
10.7 M€
20.2 M€
69.4 M€
12.1 M€/year

to be defined