Tips and examples of best practice from past projects

Since 2008, the GBIF network has sought to develop regional collaboration among the Participant nodes that coordinate national activities. The lessons learned listed below emerged from a comprehensive review of past capacity support programmes and offer useful guidance for future capacity enhancement projects. 

Maximizing the impact of training

The following guidance is drawn from the GBIF community’s experience to help those planning training events to maximize their impact.

  1. Set both short and long term objectives for a training activity early in the planning phase to help the organizing team to select the most effective contents and to evaluate the activity’s success. This can also help with planning associated activities before and after the main event.

  2. Make detailed information about the event publicly available as early as possible in the process to help potential participants to assess their interest in the contents and whether they meet the stated requirements for participating. GBIF Participants are invited to share information on their events through the GBIF website by contacting training@gbif.org.

  3. Engage trainers and provide them with incentives to make the most of the experience. Make sure that they not only have detailed knowledge of the topics to be covered, but that they also have the skills to transfer the knowledge effectively. In addition to travel opportunities and honoraria, incentives to engage the trainers include for example, professional development, co-authoring of published products, certification and visibility for their involvement in the activity.

  4. Involve local experts as trainers, particularly in those events in which a significant number of the trainers come from other countries, ensuring commitment from the local experts to lead the follow-ups from the meeting and the organization of further knowledge dissemination events. Local experts can help foreign trainers to adapt their approaches to the local situation, going beyond translation to including more relevant examples and taking into consideration cultural differences and local practices. The GBIF Participant nodes can help identify trainers and local experts in areas relevant to biodiversity informatics. Their contact information can be found here.

  5. Select participants based on a clearly defined and publicly accessible student profile. This is important to ensure that the participants will be able to fully contribute to and benefit from the training, ultimately putting the knowledge and skills they gain into practice in their workplace. The selection process can include getting commitments from selected participants to carry out future training events through the train-the-trainer approach.

  6. Reuse, adapt and improve existing resources, saving time and effort, and learning from the experiences of others. Also design any new materials with their reusability in mind. The GBIF network has produced a wide range of material that can support the organization of new training events, accessible by searching the resources section or contacting training@gbif.org. Participants can share new materials by emailing them to training@gbif.org.

  7. Balance theoretical presentations with practical hands-on sessions and group work when designing the course. This can include assigning participants to groups designed around their interests or languages, each with a designated facilitator to help during practical sessions and lead the follow up activities with their group.

  8. Consider using e-learning and video to reach a wider audience (for example, through translated subtitles) and maximise the reusability of the material. See examples of e-learning in the GBIF community.

  9. Engage participants through pre-course activities, making the events more time-efficient, and provide early access to relevant preparatory materials and the resources that will be used during the training event. For example, participants in data publishing workshops can be asked to pre-register to the GBIF network as new data publishing institutions for endorsement ahead of the workshop, and also to identify datasets that they can bring with them to use in the practical exercises. Translated versions of the slides can be provided to help participants to follow presentations given in a language they are less familiar with. The GBIF community site can be a useful platform to start group discussions and activities between participants ahead of a training event, such as for the pre-course activities for the 2015 Global Nodes Training.

  10. Promote the use of a community of practice for future support among the workshop participants and trainers, encouraging on-going discussion when participants are applying their new skills. Explaining the expected role of participants in contributing to a community of practice can help build their motivation and ownership for their learning. Consider re-using or setting up a new group in the GBIF community site for this purpose.

  11. Evaluate the short and longer-term impacts of the training event, to help to improve your future training events. A simple questionnaire at the end of the training event can be enough to capture immediate feedback from participants. Measuring the longer-term impacts requires more effort (for example, through follow-up interviews, surveys), but can provide very compelling justification for investment in training activities.

  12. Publish workshop reports, strengthening the participant ownership over the results of the training workshop. Consider whether it is appropriate to produce peer-reviewed articles or position papers based on the workshop results to reach a wider audience and provide academic recognition to the participants and trainers.

  13. Participants are encouraged to contact training@gbif.org for further guidance when planning training events.

Building biodiversity information facilities

  1. Organize exchange visits and hands-on sessions to experience first-hand how biodiversity information facilities are coordinated and implemented in different contexts. These exchange visits involve nodes’ teams, covering topics from governance structures and engagement mechanisms, to digitization processes, to the structure and workflows involved in running an informatics infrastructure for publishing biodiversity data, and to providing services to users of biodiversity information. Exchange visits should include sessions to discuss how the approaches can be adapted or transferred to the visiting country’s context.

  2. Identify stakeholders, and assess data holdings and user needs, through a survey and/or study informing the strategy for the biodiversity information facility. There are several good examples of these types of studies in the GBIF network, often carried out as parts of collaborative projects and based on examples in other countries (see an Australian study). Such studies can also contribute to capturing metadata on data holdings, which can be shared in a national metadata catalogue and published to the GBIF network, even if the data holdings are not yet digitized or published.

  3. Engage a network of holders and users of biodiversity data through a national stakeholders meeting, in which external GBIF representatives can provide expertise and share their experiences. The guide to establishing an effective GBIF Participant node provides more recommendations on a participatory approach to establishing a node and biodiversity information facility. General material for promoting GBIF can be found on the GBIF website, including presentations and brochures. The country pages and national reports are also useful resources to explain the data available in the GBIF network about biodiversity in any country, as well as the current level of use of data accessible through GBIF.org by users based in any country.

  4. Develop terms of reference and a governance structure for the node and national biodiversity information facility. Other nodes can provide relevant examples and advice in this process as part of a collaborative project. Information on the history, vision and mission, structure and funding of each node can be found on the Participation tab of the country pages on the GBIF website.

  5. Agree on a strategy and action plan for the biodiversity information facility, possibly as an output of a national workshop, which outlines the roles of the node and other stakeholders. These documents should be informed by analysis of data holdings and user needs, and external experts can assist in their development as mentors. They can also be used to develop funding proposals to national or international funding agencies.

  6. Establish an informatics infrastructure for the national biodiversity information facility to support the data publishing, management and access. In some cases, installations of software tools, such as the Integrated Publishing Toolkit, can be hosted by another node for an agreed period. Other collaborative projects make use of tools developed or translated with support from other nodes. Collaborations between well established nodes can focus on the further development of the informatics infrastructure, for example including data quality tools and workflows, e-learning platforms and citizen science tools.

  7. Train stakeholders on data mobilization, management and use, possibly involving trainers from other nodes. Training events can be organised in conjunction with other national or regional meetings where there is overlap in the participants or trainers involved, so that they help to engage new partners into the network.

  8. Publish datasets to the GBIF network during a data publishing workshop, for example, as an important and easily-measurable result of a collaborative project. Technical assistance can be provided by a mentor node or trainer in the workshop to help ensure the data are published correctly.

  9. Expand a national network through a national data mobilization strategy, targeting specific user needs, and reaching beyond the initial set of stakeholders. Partners can assist with guidance on how to encourage data sharing in these new communities.

  10. Monitor and evaluate progress in enhancing capacity, including capturing best practice and lessons learned to share with the community. GBIF has developed a set of guidelines for capacity self-assessment for GBIF Participant nodes and biodiversity information facilities, which can be used as a tool to identify capacity strengths and needs and to track progress in developing capacity. Projects funded through the GBIF capacity enhancement support programme are encouraged to document lessons learned in their final reports, ideally including the perspectives of all the project partners. Reviewing the project pages on the GBIF website can provide inspiration and examples when planning new capacity enhancement projects.