, Volume 112, Issue 3, pp 1323–1341 | Cite as

Knowledge linked to museum specimen vouchers: measuring scientific production from a major biological collection in Colombia

  • Enrique Arbeláez-CortésEmail author
  • Andrés R. Acosta-Galvis
  • Carlos DoNascimiento
  • Diana Espitia-Reina
  • Arturo González-Alvarado
  • Claudia A. Medina


Biological collections are sources of knowledge, particularly critical to understand life when they house specimens from megadiverse countries. However, the scientific value of biological collections is usually unknown because the lack of an explicit link between knowledge and specimens. Here we compiled 628 papers from 152 journals that used collection objects from the Colecciones Biológicas del Instituto de Investigación de Recursos Biológicos Alexander von Humboldt, Colombia (IAvH-CB) as sources. The compilation was largely based on expert knowledge. However, to assess the performance of our method we compared our results with results obtained conducting automatic searches in academic databases. We calculated different metrics and depicted geographical, taxonomic, and bibliometric trends. We found that geographic coverage of the IAvH-CB objects used in the studies is largely regional or national. Taxonomically, we found records of 176 families in 61 orders of taxa, but there is large variation among the number of studies in different groups. The bibliometric analyses indicated that there is a growing trend in the number of publications and citations over the years, and that the citation number as well as the H index of this set of papers is comparable to the knowledge produced by major researchers in Colombia and of similar magnitude to that of the production of relatively small or medium sized collections in the USA. The compilation method used performed well, with broad coverage and an omission rate below 8%, compared with automated searches. However, we conclude that both approaches, expert knowledge and automated searches, are complementary. IAvH-CB are a massive source of scientific knowledge about Colombian biodiversity and they are instrumental for documenting basic issues about taxa in the country.


Biodiversity Biorepositories Knowledge management Natural history museum South America Specimens 

JEL Code


MSC Code




We thank H. Mendoza Cifuentes, K. Borja, O. Orrego, J.C. Bello, and H. García from IAvH for the support they provided. A special acknowledge to Jhon W Miles, Donald C. Taphorn, and Terry Chesser; for their valuable comments and corrections, which improved this manuscript. We also thank one anonymous reviewer whose comments were useful to correct and make a better version of this work.

Supplementary material

11192_2017_2461_MOESM1_ESM.tif (19.1 mb)
Fig S1. Map depicting the network of collections contributing tissue samples to scientific papers in which IAvH-CT tissue samples were also included. Line thickness is proportional to the number of papers shared. (TIFF 19602 kb)


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto de Investigación de Recursos Biológicos Alexander von HumboldtVilla de Leyva, BoyacáColombia
  2. 2.Grupo de Estudios en Biodiversidad, Escuela de Biología, Facultad de CienciasUniversidad Industrial de SantanderBucaramanga, SantanderColombia
  3. 3.Programa de Pós-graduação em Ecologia e Conservação da Biodiversidade, Instituto de BiociênciasUniversidade Federal de Mato GrossoBoa Esperança, CuiabáBrazil

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