New approaches to data licensing and endorsement

The 21st meeting of the GBIF Governing Board, meeting in New Delhi, has agreed a set of principles and next steps relating to the licensing and endorsement of data published through the network.

The decisions were developed based on extensive consultations on both issues during 2014.

On licensing, the Governing Board recognized the need for much greater clarity both for data publishers and users on how data may be used when shared via

With that in mind, work will begin immediately to ensure that all species occurrence datasets within the network are associated with digital licenses equivalent to one of the following three choices supplied by Creative Commons:

  • CC0, under which data are made available for any use without restriction or particular requirements on the part of users
  • CC-BY, under which data are made available for any use provided that attribution is appropriately given for the sources of data used
  • CC-BY-NC, under which data are made available for any use provided that attribution is appropriately given and provided the use is not for commercial purposes

The Governing Board agreed that GBIF should encourage publishers to adopt the most open licence possible in their situation. GBIF will continue to monitor best practices for management of internationally-sourced scientific data and will review licensing choices periodically in future.

GBIF will also develop information resources to explain and promote the value of adopting open data licences, and to recommend how data publishers and users should interpret the ‘non-commercial’ restriction imposed by CC-BY-NC. and its associated web services will be enhanced to enable users to filter data according to the three standard licences.

Correct attribution and citation of data accessed through GBIF will also become much easier with the adoption of Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) for all datasets and individual data downloads in the coming year. GBIF will continue to champion the importance of clear attribution regardless of the specific terms associated with any dataset.

On endorsement, GBIF will retain the current requirement for new data publishers to be endorsed by a Participant country or organization. However, two significant enhancements will be introduced:

  • The GBIF Secretariat, in consultation with the community, will draw up guidance and simple decision criteria, helping Participant nodes to evaluate potential new data publishers during the endorsement process
  • For cases in which a prospective data publisher is in a country not yet participating in GBIF, and has no connections with an existing Participant node, the Nodes Steering Group will develop procedures for endorsement by the community following similar decision criteria

Commenting on the decisions, the GBIF Executive Secretary Donald Hobern said: “I believe the GBIF Governing Board has set us on a path to much greater clarity both on the terms of data sharing and use through GBIF, and on the role of our Participant community in the endorsement of data publishers.

“We are very grateful for all those who took part in the consultations on these two issues and helped us arrive at recommendations consistent with open data principles while respecting a range of views and particular national circumstances.

“We urge all biodiversity informatics organizations, networks and projects to adopt the most open licences possible for any biodiversity data they share or mobilize, in line with the commitments made under the Bouchout Declaration.

“The new approach to endorsement will enable our national nodes to keep the important association with the data publishers within their country, while making it easier for institutions outside the current GBIF membership to share data and fill knowledge gaps.”

Publication date

  • September 22nd, 2014

Last updated

  • October 23rd, 2015