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Natural Science Collections and Access and Benefit Sharing

Genetic resources (e.g. animals, plants, microorganisms) are a key element of the work of CETAF members. To know the Origin of these genetic resources is important: not only for countries that provide genetic resources and have the sovereignty over the material found within their borders, but also for collections that store them or researchers using them. If genetic resources are utilised, benefits arising should be shared in a fair and equitable manner between providers and users. Many countries have laws setting out conditions under which access to genetic resources is granted. The international legal framework for the benefit sharing as well as the access to genetic resources is provided by the Nagoya Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity, which entered into force in 2014.

The Nagoya Protocol creates incentives to use genetic resources sustainably and therefore conserve biodiversity. The EU is a Party to the Nagoya Protocol, and the provisions of the EU Regulation on ABS and its Implementing Regulation apply to all Member States. All home countries of CETAF members – EU-Member States, Norway and Switzerland - are also Party to the Nagoya Protocol.

CETAF supports the aims of the CBD, the Nagoya Protocol, the CBD’s Global Taxonomy Initiative and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

ABS and Natural History Collections

Proper documentation of samples stored in CETAF collections is a prerequisite not only for good collection management, but also for a key feature for good referenced research collections. Linking permits, such as research or collecting permits with specimens is part of the routines in CETAF collections. This applies to material acquired by all means, such as collecting, donations, bequests and purchases. Access and Benefit-Sharing (ABS) requirements are adding a new dimension, as utilisation of collection material now needs to be recorded. Also, the exact ways in which collection material can be used under agreed permits, e.g. loaning, sequencing, publication of results, needs to be considered. Documentation is of particular importance for material collected after October 2014 when the Nagoya Protocol came into force, since the collection-holding institution or researchers using the collections may be called on to make a declaration to their national Checkpoint including reference to relevant ABS information.

CETAF members are currently implementing systems to record and link a range of information to individual specimens and samples: the terms and conditions under which the specimen was accessed, any uses that might be prohibited by the conditions or trigger benefit sharing, any benefits shared, and supply to third parties (e.g. loans). 

The EU ABS regulation is of utmost importance to natural history collections and the associated research carried out at CETAF institutions, since it affects the way both are organised. 

CETAF Code of Conduct and Best Practices

CETAF Code of Conduct and Best Practises

Code of Conduct and Best Practice for Access and Benefit-Sharing adjusted for the United Kingdom


More documents

Annex 1 - CETAF Best Practices on ABS

Annex 2 - Statement of Use of Biological Material

Annex 3 - Glossary

Annex 4 - Monetary and Non-Monetary Benefits

Annex 5 - Practical Advice for ABS Management for Museums, Herbaria and Botanic Gardens

Annex 6.1 - MTA 1_Transfer with no change in ownership

Annex 6.2 - MTA 2_Transfer with change in ownership

Annex 6.3 - MTA 3_Receipt with change in ownership

Annex 6.4 - MTA 4_Guest researchers

Annex 7 - Data Use Statement

CETAF members have been engaged in ABS matters since at least 2000. Not only as a response to Article 20 in the Nagoya Protocol, and Articles 8 and 13 of the European Regulation on compliance measures for users from the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilisation in the Union, CETAF Members have developed and adopted a Code of Conduct for Access and Benefit-Sharing (ABS). The principles and practices stated in the Code of Conduct are also designed to fully support CETAF members’ operations as taxonomic collection-holding and non-commercial biological research institutions in complying with ABS legal and ethical requirements.

Cover CETAF Code of Coduct on ABS

All member institutions have agreed to implement the CETAF Code of Conduct & Best Practices which was developed by CETAF’s Legislations and Regulations Liaison Group. That means for example that in order to obtain prior informed consent, CETAF members will provide a full explanation of the purposes for which biological material will be used and how genetic resources may be utilised. It will subsequently take any steps reasonably possible to ensure that the biological material was acquired in accordance with the applicable law.

Due to the not-for-profit nature of the work of CETAF members, benefits arising from their research are mostly non-monetary. Hence, benefit-sharing typically involves non-monetary benefits, such as scientific training, education, capacity building, technology transfer, collaboration on scientific work programmes and the mutual sharing of research results and publications.

In addition to the best practices, the downloadable annexes include a use statement, a glossary, a list of monetary and non-monetary benefits, practical advice for ABS management in museums, herbaria, and botanic gardens, templates for different material transfer agreements, and a data use statement. 

Recognition of the CETAF Code of Conduct and Best Practice

Documents Press Release on the EC recgnition of the CETAF CoC 23 May 2019

On 10 May 2019 with a decision by the European Commission, the CETAF Code of Conduct and best practices have officially been recognised as the first best practice on ABS.

CETAF had submitted its set of best practices for official recognition to the European Commission in 2015, revised it following first assessment received and re-submitted it on the 30th November 2016. The Code of Conduct and Best Practices provides the overall framework to guide practitioners and researchers within the CETAF community (and those following the same principles) in complying with ABS requirements in their daily work.  “Best practices" in the sense of the ABS Regulation (Art. 8) are procedures, tools or mechanisms, developed and overseen by associations of users or other interested parties, which – when effectively implemented – help users of genetic resources to comply with the obligations of the EU ABS Regulation. Since the document has been recognised by the European Commission, it was included in a dedicated register of best practices as the first and so far only entry.

The Global Genome Biodiversity Network (GGBN) has aligned its practices to the CETAF Code of Conduct & Best Practices.

Guidance Documents

guidance document on the scope of the EU ABS Regulation was adopted on 22 August 2016 and published in the Official Journal on 27 August 2016. A report on utilisation practices among the upstream actors (collections, researchers at universities, etc), prepared by a contractor, was one of the many elements that fed into this guidance document. Additional sectorial guidance documents on Cosmetics, Animal Breeding, Plant Breeding, Biocontrol, Pharmaceuticals, Food and Feed, Biotechnologies have been drafted and discussed while two others, specifically addressing Research and Collections, are currently under development.

ABS Consultation Forum

CETAF, via the General Secretariat and the CETAF Legislations and Regulations Liaison Group, made an application to join the European Commission ABS Consultation Forum (accepted on the 21 December 2015). Representatives attended the first meeting of the forum on 21 January 2016, and the second meeting on 6 March 2017.

The ABS Consultation Forum is providing advice and expertise to the European Commission and its Directorate-General for Environment in relation to the implementation of ABS legislation and is facilitating coordination with Member States and multiple stakeholders on this issue. 

Being a member of the ABS Consultation Forum, CETAF is in a prime position to comment and raise awareness among other stakeholders and the Member States of the importance of collections and the research carried out on them, as a means to broaden scientific knowledge of biodiversity and natural resources. Members of the CETAF community will be engaged in the development of drafts for specific Guidance Documents on both Research and Collections.


Documents ABS training NHM London 2018ABS Challenges and OpportunitiesIntrodution to the CBD and the Nagoya ProtocolThe European ABS LegislationCETAF Code of Conduct & Best PracticePractical Implementation in a NutshellABS and the Nagoya Protocol

The Nagoya Protocol (NP), and the EU Regulation to implement it, have now been in force for more than three years, and the number of countries party to the Protocol has exceeded 100. CETAF members are managing the requirements of the Protocol in various ways, including through implementing the CETAF Code of Conduct and using the tools developed by the CETAF ABS team.

To present the CoC and Best Practices, to debate key elements of the ABS workflow and share experiences, questions and ideas on how to implement best practices, and to discuss particular ABS issues, including declarations under the EU Regulation and the developing guidance documents form the Commission, CETAF regularly offers training excercises. Training material will be available for download here.

CETAF Stable Identifiers

The formation of a joint system of identifiers for specimens held by CETAF collections is one of the import targets defined by the CETAF strategic development plan for the next decade.

The CETAF Information Science and Technology Committee (ISTC) has taken already a significant step to fulfil this target by:

  • agreeing on a joint Linked Open Data (LOD) compliant identifier system,
  • providing mechanisms for consistently referencing individual specimens, as well as
  • redirecting to human-readable webpages and machine-readable (preferably RDF) Metadata records

Additional information can be found at the CETAF Stable Identifier Initiative Wiki at

There is also a poster summarising the development in a non-technical way (

Stable Identifiers Implementers Group

To date, 14 CETAF institutions joined the initiative and provide LOD-compliant identifiers for individual specimens. For each of them the following lists provides an example identifier, a link to a catalogue for searching specimens and their identifiers as well as an indication of whether a redirect to machine-readable metadata has already been implemented.

Botanischer Garten und Botanisches Museum Berlin Example: Catalogue: Redirect to machine-readable representation: yes Finnish Museum of Natural History, Helsinki Example: Catalogue: no Redirect to machine-readable representation: no Institute of Botany, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava Example: Catalogue: Redirect to machine-readable representation: no (no redirection by passing rdf header, but rdf is accessible at

Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin Example: Catalogue: no Redirect to machine-readable representation: yes Muséum national d'histoire naturelle, Paris Example: Catalogue: Redirect to machine-readable representation: yes Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden Example: Catalogue: Redirect to machine-readable representation: yes

Natural History Museum, London Example: Catalogue: Redirect to machine-readable representation: yes

Natural History Museum - University of Oslo Example: Catalogue: Redirect to machine-readable representation: yes

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh Example: Catalogue: Redirect to machine-readable representation: yes Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Stuttgart Example: Catalogue: Redirect to machine-readable representation: no

Staatliche Naturwissenschaftliche Sammlungen Bayerns Example: Catalogue: Redirect to machine-readable representation: yes

Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig, Bonn Example: Catalogue: Redirect to machine-readable representation: yes (

Botanic Garden Meise Example: Catalogue: Redirect to machine-readable representation: yes

Royal Museum for Central Africa Example: Catalogue: Redirect to machine-readable representation: no

Responsible Research and Innovation

“Responsible research and innovation means taking care of the future through collective stewardship of science and innovation in the present.” (“Developing a framework for Responsible Innovation” Stilgoe, J. et al. 2011)

The Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) framework stands for a broad assessment  of the societal impact that scientific advances can cause as to ensure that they meet the expectations of society. As a concept, it is a key pillar in the strategy of the European Union to create sustainable and inclusive prosperity while addressing global societal challenges. As an ever-growing part of the European research landscape, this multi-actor context brings researchers, citizens, policy-makers, and businesses together to better align the overall research process, and its outcomes. With this also comes the inclusion of values and needs of society as well as joint contributions to tackle the urgent challenges we face. The aim of the RRI initiative is to provide a valuable incentive for all societal actors to work together and produce integrative, inclusive and sustainable solutions for the benefit of society.

To further pursue the goals of RRI, the signatories of the Rome Declaration on RRI in Europe called in 2014 to make RRI a central objective across all relevant policies and activities, by underlining that the benefits of Responsible Research and Innovation “[…] go beyond alignment with society: it ensures that research and innovation deliver on the promise of smart, inclusive and sustainable solutions to our societal challenges; it engages new perspectives, new innovators and new talent from across our diverse European society, allowing to identify solutions which would otherwise go unnoticed; […] it assesses the risks and the way these risks should be managed."

Today, RRI is firmly established in the European Research landscape, covering all disciplines and interconnecting all scientific domains. In fact, publicly funded research tackles societal challenges posed by pressing issues such as climate change or the loss of biodiversity. Under the Horizon 2020 programme of the European Union, RRI is a cross-cutting theme and a budget of € 462 million is devoted to the Science with and for Society Programme, whose topics directly relate to the five dimensions of RRI that are generally said to foster inclusive and sustainable research:

▶ Open science

▶ Science education

▶ Public engagement

▶ Gender

▶ Ethics


Documents CETAF Framework for RRI

Cover of CETAF RRI Framework

Natural science institutions are already engaged in these domains as the five RRI principles naturally underpin their numerous and varied activities, from exhibitions and educational programmes, to collection curation and scientific research. In the light of such an exemplary status, the community of CETAF is positioned at the forefront of RRI implementation across all its member institutions via the scientists involved in collections-based research and the policies and best practices endorsed at the institutional level.

To establish a common understanding and provide guidance on implementing and deepening its engagement in the RRI concept, CETAF has defined a set of five basic principles that lead to action under each of the five RRI domains in their “CETAF Framework for Responsible Research and innovation – 5 principles to guide 5 domains”. Those values are inherent in the everyday activities of our research-performing organisations and anchor their pursuit of excellent science whilst upholding high standards for conducting responsible research.

The process of the creation of the CETAF Framework for RRI started in 2016 at the CETAF39 General Assembly in Budapest and found its culmination one year later with the publication of the document, available for download here. By emplo ying a bottom-up approach, the CETAF RRI Framework is directly based on the input and experience of representatives and personnel from natural history institutions. This set of voluntaTheir character and history gives CETAF members special experience in each of the five domains. As a reference, the open access to biodiversity data has been a tradition in CETAF institutions and is solidly embedded in its backbone. Moreover, natural science museums and botanical gardens are strongly engaged in science education and public engagement as these constitute part of its core objectives. Similarly, ethics is a central axis for research discovery and scientific development at the institutions, and according to the numbers in our institutional profiles, CETAF comes very close to an equal staff distribution between genders with 49% women and 51% men employed by the museums and botanic gardens that make up CETAF.ry guidelines is a response of the CETAF community to the European Commission laying out their definition of RRI to show CETAF’s commitment to responsible science and how the entire community dedicates its scientific activity to serving society. 

RRI Resources

Below are some useful resources regarding RRI:

Tools and Outcomes

RRI Toolkit – The RRI Toolkit is an output of the RRI Tools project, funded by the EU under FP7, that set out to foster RRI in Europe with a view to a harmonious and efficient relationship between science and society. An extensive search engine lets the user search for digital resources to advocate, train, disseminate and implement RRI. The CETAF Framework for RRI can also be found here.

Screenshot Website RRI Toolkit

GenPORT – The Gender Portal compiled a rich trove of resources specifically devoted to the Gender domain of RRI.

Science in Society (SiS) page – CORDIS is the European Commission's primary public repository and portal to disseminate information on all EU-funded research projects and their results in the broadest sense, implementing the Open Access and Public Engagement domains of RRI directly.

RESPONSIBILITY  is a global model and observatory for International Responsible Research and Innovation Coordination. The observatory aims to be a permanent point of reference and actual forethinking regarding the current 17:30 concept and developments in the field of RRI.


Journal of Responsible Innovation

Options for Strengthening Responsible Research and Innovation, Report, European Commission, 2013


FoTRRIS – The project aims to foster a transition of the existing Research & Innovation system to a RRI system by helping researchers to overcome structural and cultural barriers against RRI. CETAF participated in a survey to help advance this project.

RRI- PRACTICEaims to understand the barriers and drivers to the successful implementation of RRI. The project will review RRI related work in 22 research conducting and research funding organisations and will develop RRI Outlooks outlining objectives, targets and indicators for each organisation.

ENGAGE – This project is about equipping the next generation to participate in scientific issues and to change how science is taught. Traditionally students gain an image of science as a body of content, whereas RRI deals with uncertain areas of knowledge, where values and argument matter as much as facts.

PROSO – PROSO provides guidance on how to encourage engagement of citizens and third sector organizations, such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations, and citizens in Europe’s research and innovation processes. CONSIDER is a similar project focusing on research governance.

NewHoRRIzon is a project that aims at integrating RRI in the Innovation and Research systems on national and international levels. It targets in particular the current research framework programme H2020 and future multiannual programmes (e.g. FP9). The project website also features a number of videos on RRI.

A more extensive list of RRI related projects can be found here.

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