GBIF Strategic Plan 2017-2022

This plan aims to serve the needs of GBIF's global community and infrastructure into the next decade

Common Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum)

Common Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) calculated to having a C/CS strategy class. Photo by Cailin O'Connor Fitzpatrick via iNaturalist licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

Starting in 2023 with the 2023 work programme, GBIF's annual implementation plans are guided by the 2023-2027 Strategic Framework.

The details below outline the work completed under the 2017-2022 strategic plan.


1. Empower global network

Ensure that governments, researchers and users are equipped and supported to share, improve and use data through the GBIF network, regardless of geography, language or institutional affiliation.

  • Remove barriers to participation
  • Increase benefits associated with publishing biodiversity data
  • Address capacity needs

2. Enhance biodiversity information infrastructure

Provide leadership, expertise and tools to support the integration of all biodiversity information as an interconnected digital knowledgebase.

  • Coordinate vision and strengthen partnerships with major biodiversity informatics initiatives
  • Promote standardization and common mechanisms for exchange of biodiversity data
  • Provide stable and persistent data infrastructure to support research

3. Fill data gaps

Prioritize and promote mobilization of new data resources which combine with existing resources to maximize the coverage, completeness and resolution of GBIF data, particularly with respect to taxonomy, geography and time.

  • Expand checklists to cover all taxonomic groups
  • Identify and prioritize gaps in spatial and temporal data
  • Engage institutions and researchers with complementary data

4. Improve data quality

Ensure that all data within the GBIF network are of the highest-possible quality and associated with clear indicators enabling users to assess their origin, relevance and usefulness for any application.

  • Enhance automated data validation
  • Implement tools for expert curation
  • Provide clear quality indicators for all data

5. Deliver relevant data

Ensure that GBIF delivers data in the form and completeness required to meet the highest-priority needs of science and, through science, society.

  • Engage with expert communities to manage data to the highest quality possible
  • Deliver well-organized and validated data to support key applications

Critical challenges addressed by this plan

Widening and strengthening participation

Many countries in all regions remain unconnected with GBIF, and progress toward establishing and strengthening national capacity to mobilize and access relevant data varies significantly among existing participants. Funding remains a challenge, with costs shared among a relatively small number of countries and disproportionate impact when one or more of these is unable to contribute at agreed levels. More conspicuously, data coverage is highly variable between regions and even between adjacent countries.

Building trust in data products

Improvements are required in the quality and fitness-for-use of aggregated data and metadata within the network. More work is needed to ensure that all data are sufficiently documented and catalogued in ways that assist users in filtering according to their needs, and greater precision and accuracy is necessary particularly in representing taxonomy. Mechanisms and incentives are needed to engage expert communities in validation and correction of this global data resource.

Filling data gaps and broadening evidence base

Opportunities exist to make significant advances both in the completeness and coverage of GBIF data and of the richness of available information. GBIF must identify and understand where gaps and biases in existing data make it inadequate to meet user needs and must prioritize effective responses to address these issues.

All relevant sources of data must be incorporated, including sample-based data sets, ecogenomics and other molecular research, remote-sensing, literature records, local and regional checklists, and expert knowledge. These resources should be used to establish GBIF not only as a source of occurrence information but also as an effective tool to discover and access data on species abundance and community composition, and related genetic data.

Scaling up infrastructure

Integrating growing volumes of data will bring new challenges in efficient storage, management, presentation and access of these data. GBIF will face related challenges as it engages with more countries and organizations and as its services become more mission-critical for many stakeholders. During 2017-2021, GBIF must accordingly continue to innovate and to review all processes to ensure smooth future growth.

Previous work programmes