Otlet – International network and infrastructure for scientists to share, source and request biological samples

Madeline Green1, Lauren Meyer1, Lachlan Fetterplace1 & Tiffany Nay2

1Otlet, Sydney, NSW, Australia

2James Cook University, Townsville, Australia


Research teams collect >94 million biological samples annually, the majority of which are subsampled for analyses. The remaining sample, often including a number of unused organs, can be repurposed for additional studies by collaborators around the world. However, the absence of a systematic method to source these unused samples results in wasted tissues, organisms and opportunities for research as scientists undertake redundant sampling regimes. As such, ‘Otlet’, a global online database, was established to overcome the challenges of sourcing scientific research samples from colleagues. The platform allows the users to 1) upload a record of their unused samples for collaboration, 2) search the database of existing samples from other scientific users and request them directly and, 3) post a request for samples onto a searchable community board. Many explorations of the processes underpinning species range shifts require biological samples, Otlet is a platform to provide maximum use of such samples. The platform facilitates communication between research teams across different locations, taxa and expertise to foster novel collaborations while accelerating scientific output.

Otlet’s newly constructed platform is an important tool for biological scientists of all disciplines to efficiently communicate and source research material. Membership is freely available for scientific use by researchers from universities, government agencies, museums, private consulting and NGOs.

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