The focuse of biology, as a science, on the study and explanation of the similarities and differences between organisms led in the second half of the 20th century to the recognition of a specific subject area of biological research, viz. biodiversity (BD).
One of the most important general scientific prerequisites for this shift was understanding that (at the level of ontology) the structured diversity of nature is its fundamental property equivocal to subjecting of some of its manifestations to certain laws. At the level of epistemology, this led to the acknowledging that the “diversificationary” approach to description of the living nature is as justifiable as the formerly dominated “unificationary” approach.
This general trend has led to a significant increase of attention to BD proper. From a pragmatic perspective, its leitmotif was conservation of BD as a renewable resource; from a scientific perspective, the leitmotif was studying BD as a specific natural phenomenon. These two points of view are combined by recognition of the need for scientific substantiation of BD conservation strategy, which implies the need for detailed research of the very BD.
At the level of ontology, in the study of BD (leaving aside the question of its genesis), one of the key problems is elucidation of its structure, which is interpreted as a manifestation of the structure of the Earth’s biota itself. With this, it is acknowledged that the subject area of empirical research is not the BD as a whole ( “Umgebung”) but its various particular individual manifestations (“Umwelts”). Within the latter, it is suggested herewith to recognize: fragments of BD (especially taxa and ecosystems), hierarchical levels of BD (primarily within- and interorganismal ones), and aspects of BD (before all taxonomic and meronomic ones).
Attention is drawn to a new interpretation of bioinformatics as a discipline that studies the information support of BD research and protection. An important fraction of this support are museum (and eventually any other) biocollections.
The scientific value of biocollections means that they provide a possibility of both empirical inferring and testing (verification) of the knowledge about BD. This makes biocollections, in their epistemological status, equivalent to experiments, and so it makes collection-based studies on BD quite scientific. It is emphasized that collections of natural objects (naturalia) contain primary (objective) information about BD, while information retrieved somehow from these objects is a secondary (subjective) one.
Collection, as an information resource, serves as a research sample in the studies of BD. Collection pool, as the totality of all materials kept in all collections over the world, can be treated as a general sample, with every single collection being a local sample. The main characteristic of collection as a sample is its representativeness; so the basic strategy of development of the collection pool is to maximize its representativeness as a means to ensure correspondence of the structure of the biocollection pool to that of BD itself.
The most fundamental characteristic of the collection pool, as an information resource for BD studies and protection, is its scientific significance. More particular characteristics of research collections are as following:
ormativeness, reliability, adequacy, documenting, systematicity, volume, structure, uniqueness, stability, lability;
— the “external” characteristics of collection are its resolution, usability, ethic constituent;
— the “service” characteristics of collection are its museofication, storage system security, inclusion in metastructure, cost.
In the contemporary world, development of the biocollection pool, as a specific resource for BD research and conservation, requires development of an “extravertal” strategy and considerable organizational efforts, including “information support” aimed at demonstrating necessity of the existence and development of museum biocollections.