UF and Florida State University are putting aside their differences and teaming up to digitize the nation's biological data.
The National Science Foundation awarded a five-year, $10-million grant to both schools for the project. The grant is part of the foundation's Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections program.
The two schools will coordinate 92 institutions in 45 states to make biological data available online.
According to UF officials, the data gathered could help government agencies and others make decisions related to biological issues such as biodiversity and climate change.
U.S. institutions hold about one billion physical specimens, said Larry Page, the project's lead principal investigator. Page estimated less than 10 percent of that information is available online.
Page said the grant will help increase the rate of digitization, which is already occurring at institutions like the Florida Museum of Natural History. Many institutions only have pictures and records available on-site.
The National Science Foundation also awarded $10 million per year for the next 10 years to the other institutions participating in the effort, Page said. These institutions include colleges, universities and museums not affiliated with schools.
The Florida Museum of Natural History staff put together the proposal at the end of 2010.
Four of the five principal investigators are at UF, and the other is at FSU. Page said UF will coordinate the overall activities of other institutions to keep the project running efficiently. Of the $10 million grant to the two schools, UF will receive $7.2 million.
Page said UF's principal investigators will form research teams based on how their information will be digitized. Researchers working with insects will digitize their information differently than plant researchers, for example.