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Hosted Scratchpads ending - sites read-only from September 2023

Over 13 years ago, the Natural History Museum Informatics team established to provide a free online virtual research environment, allowing anyone to share their data and create their own research networks. Over the years, we’ve seen that community grow far beyond its humble aspirations to host well over 1000 sites owned by researchers based all over the world and dedicated to a whole host of animals, fungi, and plants.

But sadly we have decided to retire the hosted service, effective from September 2023.  The version of Drupal we built Scratchpads on becomes end-of-life in November, and the Museum would no longer be able to meet mandated IT security levels should the system continue.  Without substantial funding we are unable to upgrade to a more recent version.  

But the good news is Scratchpads isn’t going anywhere - all sites with content on them will remain as read-only from the cut-off date, so they can still be viewed and cited in perpetuity.  Furthermore, Scratchpads will continue as open source software - and we have made it very simple to host your own scratchpad, and migrate your existing content to your new site.    

We just wish to say a big Thank you to all Scratchpads users over the years.  Our vision back in 2010 was to build a virtual community of biodiversity researchers and foster new collaborations and ways of working.  Thanks to you and your peers, it has been a huge success. We're immensely proud that it has lasted for so long: more than ten years beyond the scope of the original funding.  We do hope Scratchpads as open source software will continue to thrive in the future.

Here are just a few examples of how researchers in a range of disciplines have harnessed Scratchpads sites to power meaningful, impactful research:

Solanaceae Source aims to provide a worldwide taxonomic monograph of the nightshade family whose species are used as food (potatoes, tomatoes and eggplants), medicines (henbane and deadly nightshades) and in horticulture (petunias)

IUCN Sampled Red List Index for Plants contains Red List conservation assessments completed as part of the Sampled Red List Index for Plants project. The Red List Index is our barometer of life, and tells us the status of biodiversity, how this changes over time and measures the extinction risk of a species.

Diatoms online is dedicated to the microscopic world of Diatoms and driven by the invaluable contribution made by  volunteers.

We’re delighted to confirm that these examples (along with all other Scratchpads sites) will remain as static read-only sites so that their valuable data can continue to be used and cited for years to come.

We’re working with our users and partners to make this transition process as easy and transparent as possible. If you manage a Scratchpads site, we have included some FAQ’s below that you may find useful:

Why has this decision been taken?

The content management system (Drupal 7) that underpins Scratchpads reaches its end of life in November 2023. Having examined the alternatives we have reluctantly decided that sustaining the service is not feasible and would not present the best experience for users.

What happens next?

From 1st September your hosted Scratchpad will become read only, meaning it remains accessible at the current address in perpetuity but you will no longer be able to create or edit the content.

Can I still get my data?

You can export your site’s content as Excel files, a DarwinCore Archive, and many reference formats - please see the documentation.  A full archive of your site is also available - instructions here.  Once your Scratchpad becomes read-only, you can request a full archive of your site by contacting

Can I run my own Scratchpad?

Scratchpads will continue as an open-source project, and you can very easily host your Scratchpad on your own or institutional server - please see the documentation. The team is available to help and support your move to a self-hosted solution.

Can I delete my site or are there any alternatives?

Should you wish to delete your site, please let us know by return of e-mail.

Alternatively, many sites only use limited functionality so for example, if you want to represent your literature online, services like Mendelay may be suitable. You can export publications via the Biblio Export option within the site.

Moving forward, if you are looking for new ways to curate your taxonomic data then you may want to check out TaxonWorks. You can contact their community liaison Deborah Paul at, and see list-serv, chat, and weekly support events detailed here. You can also find out more about their efforts here.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact the team at We will be happy to assist you in any way we can.