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MorphoSource awarded 5-year sustainability funding by the US National Science Foundation

We are happy and grateful to announce that the US National Science Foundation has awarded MorphoSource sustainability funding (DBI-2149257) to achieve a number of goals over the next five years that will enable us to better serve our diverse user communities, move towards more independent long term sustainability, and support exciting and revolutionary new scholarship in anatomy and many other fields. 

From our public award abstract:

An award to Duke University is made in support of the MorphoSource on-line data resource for 3D specimen data. MorphoSource is a web accessible data repository that is uniquely specialized for 3D/2D image data representing physical specimens from museum or lab collections. Sources of 3D data include CT scanners (a common source of 3D imagery), laser scanners, photogrammetry modeling and more. Over the last decade, MorphoSource has initiated a revolution in the study of anatomy through unprecedented data access. In addition to providing digital data and tools for scientists to conduct research, MorphoSource also supports public engagement and is being widely used for public education and outreach. By making 3D data discoverable and accessible, MorphoSource helps neutralize access limitations due to geography, capability of travel, fragility of material, or high demand. By making web accessible 3D imagery available to any student with a basic computer or mobile device, MorphoSource broadens inclusivity in use of biodiversity and natural history museum collections in a way that was never previously possible.

In 2013, MorphoSource.org was created to enable broad access to digitized “virtual specimens” and 3D data for advanced analyses of anatomic phenotypes. MorphoSource has since become a vital research resource for 3D data on anatomical form of specimens in biodiversity and natural history collections. MorphoSource has been cited by ~1,100 papers for data access or archiving and served a growing, active community of 15,000 users (with ~1,600 data contributors). Achieving this status has hinged largely on its standards-based data model, file format expertise, rich management tools, and collaboratively developed policies. Furthermore, MorphoSource supports deep integrations with a variety of federally-funded bioinformatic platforms and is a natural and robust partner in national efforts at digitization of biodiversity collections for handling 3D needs. With unprecedented depth of taxonomic sampling and a powerful 3D web viewer, Morphosource has already enabled start-to-finish studies of large-scale patterns in anatomical variation from “virtual specimens” for the first time. The ability to access and measure nuanced anatomical variation in massive numbers of specimens is essential to realizing NSF’s visionary goals of leveraging computer science frontiers like machine learning, computer vision and artificial intelligence in biological research. This NSF award will allow MorphoSource to continue serving its diverse communities as they grow for the next five years and to further develop policies and procedures that will eventually empower certain segments of user communities to help support the platform. Results from studies that leverage MorphoSource are frequently published in peer-reviewed scientific journals and presented at scientific meetings and in numerous outreach and training presentations.

This award reflects NSF’s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation’s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.