Data citation in the electronic environment


White paper commissioned by GBIF as input for its ‘biodiversity data citations task group’. It describes the importance of citation in science, the challenges risen by the online environment and distributed database systems such as GBIF, and which are the requirements for the functionality of data citation both for the users and the producers/providers. It includes an analysis of data citation across 45 online resources as an annex.


Scientific publication is central to the scientific enterprise, which itself is fundamental to meeting the challenges that society faces. And, the inclusion of a “Literature Cited” in every scientific publication is a tradition that had an extraordinary influence on the progress of science (Altman & King 2007), although of course citation is not limited to scientific publication alone. [...]
However, even though the open sharing of raw data is quite possibly the best way to ensure repeatability of experiments and analysis (RIN 2008), the electronic publication of datasets has not achieved the same bibliometric status as has the publication of papers in print media (Brase 2004). Nor, on the whole, have institutions that have been asked to serve science and the public in this way been adequately funded to do so.
At the same time, there is a greater and greater call from governments, intergovernmental organisations, the public, and scientists themselves for more and more data to be made Internet-available, not only by individuals and group of researchers, but by entities such as natural history collections, compilers of bird watching data, or conservation NGOs. The only real, existing incentive for individuals or institutions to make data available is to have their contributions acknowledged, to be given attribution/credit for the intellectual effort and the expense laid out in developing databases populated with data that enable the furtherance of others’ studies.


Lane, M.



Rights holder

M. Lane & GBIF Secretariat


Lane, M. (2008), Data citation in the electronic environment, a white paper commissioned by GBIF. 96 pp. Copenhagen: Global Biodiversity Information Facility. Available online at