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What is Specify?

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Specify Software is collections community-inspired and research-driven.

Specify is a research software application, database, and network interface for biological collections information. It manages specimen data such as descriptions of collecting locations, participants and determination histories as well as information about collections transactions such as loans, exchanges, accessions and gifts.

Specify was developed and is currently supported with funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation. Specify and its predecessor MUSE, have received continuous NSF funding since 1987. The objective of the Specify Project is to provide a well-supported collections data computing platform, which is responsive to the research management requirements of collections as well as to new research opportunities enabled by the Internet. Collaborating institutions can use Specify for no charge. By adopting Specify with its web and DiGIR interfaces an institution avoids the significant ongoing costs of software development, maintenance and support; obtains a capable computing platform for handling collection management transactions; and brings its data to the burgeoning environmental informatics research infrastructure.

Specify is a versatile research data management system with a deep, comprehensive data model and a customizable user interface designed to facilitate accurate, consistent and efficient data entry. For example, a user only has to enter information about a location once and that description then applies to all events and specimens that reference it. Similarly, information about a person, entered once, is then associated with that person in any role--as a collector, donor, determiner, borrower or as a loan agent.

Because its user interface is highly customizable, Specify is never more complex than you need it to be. You can adapt Specify forms to display only the fields you need and it enables you to arrange and label data fields (in any Western European language) in ways that reflect your priorities and tasks.

Specify supports 'Express Search' full-text indexing and searching which means that your records are nearly instantaneously retrievable with 'Google-like' queries.  Site administrators configure the search engine to index data table and fields of interest and then indexes are maintained automatically.  Web users also have rapid, full-text search access.

Specify also supports traditional structured database queries against all data fields in the database, for example:

  • Show all the records for specimens of Glyptocephalus zachirus obtained from the Pacific Ocean.
  • Identify all of the cleared and stained preparations of Corydoras in my collection.
  • Show me the specimens of Psychotria collected by Hamel from 1998 through 2004 in Nicaragua.
  • Find all collecting events at which at least five Trigona specimens were taken.
  • Find my loans which are overdue by 12 months or longer.


Specify 5's look and feel with the Express Search panel, left-side Navigation panel and a partial data screen


The Specify taxon dictionary is compatible with the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) taxonomy format. You can import an ITIS taxonomic tree directly into Specify, you can create your own collection classification, or have one built from your current determinations. Once a taxonomic tree is in Specify, one can choose names for determinations from a drop-down menu, synonymize taxa, and make other types of common changes to the tree.

Specify comes with a web server interface that supports customized query template and query result pages for web user access. It also comes with a DiGIR installation package which sets up DiGIR to dish out your data as structured XML records to community DiGIR portals and caches.

Specify also includes an embedded report designer for creating custom print outputs ranging from labels for insect pins, sheets or jars--to the largest print formats supported by any Windows output device.

We support collections with a responsive helpdesk and issue tracking. We also provide legacy data migration, data form customization and report design services for collaborating institutions.


Specify Software Project
Biodiversity Research Center
University of Kansas
1345 Jayhawk Boulevard
Lawrence, KS USA 66045

Phone: +1 (785) 864-4400
Fax: +1 (785) 864-5335


Created by megheim
Last modified 2007-04-07 12:11 PM

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