Best practices have been variously defined as techniques or methodologies that, through experience and research, have proven to reliably lead to a desired result; procedures that are generally agreed upon but not legislated; or commendable actions and philosophies that successfully solve problems, can be replicated, and demonstrate an awareness of professional standards. The development of best practices in collections care is a key function of SPNHC and is dealt with by the Society’s Best Practices Committee.
One of the Committee's goals is to codify and disseminate best practices and to provide and enable infrastructure for ensuring that these best practices do not remain static, but continue to develop and evolve in response to innovations within the field. By initiating and hosting web-based discussion forums, organizing workshop meetings and special interest groups, initiating new sessional committees, and participating in wider community initiatives, SPNHC will continue to take the lead in promoting best practices across natural history collections care.
Recent activities have included a technical session on Community Standards and Best Practices at the 2008 annual meeting at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, a biodiversity informatics panel discussion at the 2009 annual meeting in Leiden, and a topical session at the 2010 Geological Society of America annual meeting, entitled “Geological and Paleobiological Collections: Best Practices for Access and use in Changing World.
In addition with support from the CollectionsWeb (NSF 0639214) Research Coordination Network, we have sponsored two SPNHC interns that work with members to research best practices and standards for inclusion on the SPNHC website and to provide an overview of future projects. The first intern worked at Harvard University in 2009 and ran a survey on the challenges and concerns with digitizing natural history collections in association with the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. The second intern was hosted by the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History and researched best practices and standards for inclusion on the SPNHC website, which will provide an overview for future activities.
For a useful discussion of the topic see “Best Practices-what does that imply?”