Piloting GBIF hosted portals - Call for expressions of interest from the nodes community

The Secretariat is seeking expressions of interest from GBIF Node Managers to pilot simple biodiversity data portals for open data communities. DEADLINE: 24 November 2020

Hosted portals - Tecala

GBIF Participant nodes play an important role in promoting the use of biodiversity data mobilized by the GBIF network, which can involve maintaining national, institutional, regional or thematic biodiversity data portals. Responding to requests to lower the technical threshold for participation in GBIF, the Secretariat is developing simple, customizable biodiversity data portals to be offered as a fully hosted service to support user communities. The Secretariat is now seeking interested GBIF Participant nodes to collaborate in a pilot phase, for a minimum of 1 year, for these GBIF hosted portals.

What can GBIF hosted portals offer?

Currently, the hosted portals available for pilot can offer:

  • A place for GBIF nodes and data mobilization partners to describe themselves, their team or network, and activities (editable narrative text).
  • Ability to provide simple branding (colour scheme, font and logos).
    Ability to change language of the user interface (translations and languages other than English need to be provided by the community).
  • Advanced occurrence data search, browse, map visualization and image gallery capabilities similar to that of GBIF.org (see note below). The results will be scoped to include a relevant defined subset of GBIF-mediated data (e.g. all data mobilized by a thematic network, or published by organizations within a country). Only public data published and indexed in GBIF will be available for search and to the same data quality control and taxonomic backbone as GBIF.org.
  • A redirect from search results, sending users to GBIF.org for data downloads, ensuring that the downloads receive GBIF’s citable unique identifiers (DOIs) linking back to the datasets included.

Note: The hosted portals will include a number of additional functionalities planned for a future version of GBIF.org, and are therefore in advance of the current capabilities of the global interface.

These pilot portals will be fully hosted by the GBIF Secretariat, with the content written and updated by the node and team involved. The portals can be linked to installations of the Integrated Publishing Toolkit (IPT), which is a dataset repository and data publishing tool.

The Secretariat has set up demonstration hosted portal websites to show the functionality available:

Please also view the introduction video shown at the Governing Board meeting:

What can’t hosted portals offer - and what are the alternatives?

These hosted portals are intended to be limited in functionality, enabling GBIF nodes and networks to have easy access to a website that makes their occurrence data mobilization efforts visible while they focus on developing their community of data publishers and users. The hosted portals will therefore not meet the needs of all user communities, but do address the main common denominator across GBIF nodes. For example, they do not yet offer the ability to discover checklist datasets, to restrict access to sensitive species, or to support additional spatial layers, nor do they offer species pages or search by a national taxonomic backbone. While we may explore expanding the functionality of hosted portals in the future, they will remain relatively simple and fully integrated with the APIs provided by GBIF. They will be fully developed by the Secretariat, and are not currently intended to become a community development. A goal of the pilot phase is to identify the optimal components for a broad section of the GBIF community as individual optimization of future implemented portals is beyond the capacity of the Secretariat.

In contrast, the Living Atlases community is an open community created around the Atlas of Living Australia platform that successfully supports a growing number of more complex portals around the network. The Living Atlas portals do offer a much broader range of services, but have a much higher technical threshold, requiring dedicated informatics staff to maintain them or co-hosting arrangements between GBIF nodes.

Other GBIF nodes have successfully developed custom portals, based on the specific needs of their user communities. Many of these are open source developments that should be explored and could be reused if you have a dedicated informatics team available.

Commitments in joining the pilot phase

Selected participants in the pilot phase will work closely with the GBIF Secretariat to establish a hosted portal, and will be expected to:

  • Join several virtual meetings with the Secretariat explaining the context of the work, exploring the specific theme and data that you would like for your portal, and explaining how you can use the portal.
  • Contribute time to regularly updating the text available on your portal over the pilot phase (at least 1 year).
  • Contribute to translations for languages other than English.
  • Promote your portal with a user community.
  • Provide regular feedback, including from your user community, to the Secretariat as we further develop this area of work.

Application timeline

Expressions of interest must be submitted by a GBIF Node Manager by 24 November 2020 through the GBIF Grants Portal

The Secretariat can accommodate a maximum of 10 participants in the hosted portals pilot phase. Following review and selection by a panel, selected teams will be informed by mid December 2020.

A first group call with selected teams is expected in December 2020.

The pilot phase is proposed to last for a minimum of 1 year (from December 2020 until December 2021), with regular progress review throughout.

Application process

Expressions of interest must be made by a GBIF Node Manager using the form available in the GBIF Grants Portal and before the stated deadline. These will be reviewed by a panel convened by Secretariat, including external experts, and scored according to the following criteria:

  1. Level of commitment to continued data mobilization throughout the pilot year, ensuring there will be growing content available through the pilot portals.
  2. Strength of plans for promoting the pilot portal to a community of users, ensuring the pilot portals will be used and we can collate feedback from users.
  3. Relevance, urgency and scale of need for support to develop a portal, ensuring that we support those where the pilot phase timeline matches best with their community’s development plans.

The panel’s final decision will be based on the scoring, and may also take into consideration as appropriate:

  1. The overall geographic spread of the proposed pilot portals, to allow us to get feedback across regions.
  2. Accomodating a range in the scale and themes of the proposed pilot portals, to allow us to get feedback on varied use cases.
  3. Accommodating a range in the technical experience of the proposed pilot portal teams, to allow us to get feedback from all levels of capacity, and ensuring that we give fair opportunity to new nodes that do not yet have the capacity to develop their own portal.

Eligibility requirements

Expressions of interest must be submitted in English through the GBIF Grants Portal by the stated deadline.

Expressions of interest must be submitted by a GBIF Node Manager as the lead applicant. They may be on behalf of a group within the node community - such as a thematic group focused on a specific data type or taxonomic group, or a regional or sub-regional GBIF community.

Each Node Manager may only submit one expression of interest.

Node Managers submitting an expression of interest commit to allocate existing resources to ensure full participation in the pilot phase (as outlined above). Note that activities related to participation in the hosted portal pilot phase will not be eligible for funding under any GBIF-funded programme.


Participation in the pilot phase for GBIF hosted portals is offered free of charge to representatives of GBIF Participants. GBIF will be exploring costing models for GBIF hosted services, including portals, in the future, especially for countries or institutions outside the formal participation network. GBIF Participant nodes who set up hosted portal pilots will not be faced with charges if portals are made permanent.

The portals set up during this pilot phase will be exactly that - pilots. Participants in the pilot phase should also be aware that the hosted portals will still be under development for at least the first year, and therefore they may be unstable in periods as we run updates. The decision to maintain the portals into the future will depend on the success of the pilot phase and support from the GBIF community and Governing Board.

Offering a hosted service of this kind is relatively new for the Secretariat, but we believe it has potential to offer many benefits. During the pilot phase we expect to learn and gain experience together on many aspects, including understanding the expectations around support. GBIF does operate within the University of Copenhagen informatics networks, and offering portals will depend on ongoing support.


If you have any questions about the GBIF hosted portals pilot phase and how to participate, please contact hostedportals@gbif.org.