Research Question:
The Brazilian Virtual Herbaria (BVH) is one of the country’s National Institutes of Science and Technology, a program of the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation. Two central research questions of this project are:

  • Has data sharing through the Brazilian Virtual Herbarium lead to more recognition and support for data providers?
  • What motivates crowd-sourcing within BioGeo and the Annotation System?


Research Objectives: 

The research carried out throughout 2015, had two basic objectives:

  1. Identify outcomes from on-line data sharing and,
  2. Identify motivation and outcomes for open and collaborative science through e-infrastructures


Research Problem:

Large investments have been made in developing cyber infrastructures to support research (Barjak et al., 2013). Examples from Brazil include Brazil’s National Education and Research Network (RNP) and the National Centers for high performance processing (Cenapad). However, engineering breakthroughs alone will not be enough to achieve the outcomes envisaged for the undertaking of e-Science and other global collaborative activities supported by the ‘cyber infrastructure’. If it is to be achieved, it will more likely be the result of a nexus of interrelated social, legal and technical transformations (David, 2005; Tenopir et al., 2011). Having an e-infrastructure focused on making data and tools openly and freely available online, Brazil’s Virtual Herbarium of Plants and Fungi provides an ideal case study to help understand the drivers for collaboration and participation in this field. Although interconnected cyber infrastructures are in place and being used by a broad range of actors and access is measured, no proper attention has been given to qualify this usage, to evaluate the effect of the e-infrastructure in the graduate programs or to identify possible outcomes due to the participation of the herbaria in the e-infrastructure. It is important to know who is using the e-infrastructure and for what purpose.


  • Semi-structured questionnaire with both open and multiple-choice questions concerning possible outcomes from sharing data on-line.
  • A SWOT analysis, requesting that each curator identify Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats concerning the Brazilian Virtual Herbarium.
  • The questionnaire was sent by email to curators of all 99 herbaria associated with the network and 39 answers were received.
  • All answers were tabulated and a report with the analysis of the answers was prepared and discussed with BVH’s steering committee and presented at the evaluation and strategic planning meeting held in Belo Horizonte in April, 2015 in the presence of 35 herbaria. This report is the result of the opinions of 17 herbaria that answered the questionnaire and participated at the meeting in Belo Horizonte, 22 herbaria that answered the questionnaire but were not present at the meeting, and 18 herbaria that did not answer the questionnaire but took part of the meeting. This study therefore includes the opinion of curators from 57 herbaria, which at the time represented 58% of all associated herbaria of the network.


Project Challenges:

The greatest challenge concerning this survey was to motivate the participation of the herbaria and to involve them in a SWOT analysis. Since the herbaria had never been involved with the technical activities in this project, getting their participation in a SWOT analysis was challenging. We managed to do so by simplifying the questions and leaving spaces for comments. We were thereby able to receive excellent answers and very good participation. The fact that we managed to apply and process the questionnaire (through email), analyze the answers received and present the result at a face-to-face meeting also allowed an in-depth and collective analysis. We did not achieve this same level of participation with other collaborators in our annotation system or the species distribution modeling. We therefore found that simplifying the questions, analysing this material and promoting a face-to-face meeting worked very well to promote lively discussions.

Emerging Findings:
Table 1. Answers to the questionnaire from curators indicating outcomes derived from sharing their data through the e-infrastructure BVH

Size < 10.000 10.001 – 50.000 50.001 – 100.000 100.001 – 200.00 >200.000 All
Number of Herbaria No. 27 39 17 9 7 99
Number of Answers No. 12 12 7 5 3 39
% 44% 31% 41% 56% 43% 39%
Greater institutional recognition No. 11 10 3 5 3 32
% 92% 83% 43% 100% 100% 82%
Greater involvement with graduate courses No. 9 8 5 2 2 26
% 75% 67% 71% 40% 67% 67%
Increase in the Number of Visits No. 10 12 6 2 3 33
% 83% 100% 86% 40% 100% 85%
Increase of the holdings No. 11 8 6 2 3 30
% 92% 67% 86% 40% 100% 77%
Increase amount of grants No. 6 6 3 2 3 20
% 50% 50% 43% 40% 100% 51%


As to measuring and evaluating the impact of Brazil’s Virtual Herbarium, this project in 2015 measured its impact in the participating herbaria. The survey indicated that due to their participation in the project, the herbaria achieved greater institutional recognition (82%), greater involvement with graduate courses (67%), increase of the number of visits to the herbaria (85%), increase of its holdings (77%), and increase in external grants (51%).

What do your findings suggest about the nature/context of open science in development?

This project makes an important contribution to open science, showing that data sharing must be planned, organized, funded, and community driven. Internationally accepted protocols and standards must be used, especially in the case of biodiversity, an important topic for one of the world’s global challenges – sustainable development. Open science depends on open data and, with the developments in information and communication technologies, on open processes.
We believe that being part of OCSDNet represents an opportunity to think beyond the project, understanding differences in the many fields of knowledge and communities. We also believe that this experience, with an important component of information and communication technology, may contribute to the thinking of other projects.