Become a member

Who can become a formal member of GBIF, and what is required?

Pronghorn Antilocapra americana
A herd of pronghorns (Antilocapra americana) by Greg Lasley. Photo licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

GBIF's national and organizational members—formally known as Participants—represent governments and institutions from around the world.

The network also includes hundreds of institutions that publish biodiversity data as well as the thousands of volunteers who participate through citizen science programmes around the world.

Who can join

The GBIF Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) defines members' formal relationships with the network. Under the terms of the MOU, Participants can be

  • a country
  • an economy
  • an intergovernmental or international organization
  • an organization with an international scope

Members must sign the MOU and express their intention to observe its provisions.

A country becomes a Participant in GBIF through signature of the GBIF Memorandum of Understanding, a voluntary non‐binding instrument in which countries agree to general principles of free and open access to biodiversity data. Signature may come from a minister or senior official in a relevant government department or designated national agency.

Why join? What are the benefits of GBIF membership?

For governments, formal participation in GBIF provides its ministry staff and researchers with a range of formal and informal collaborations with an international community of practice whose members can provide professional and technical expertise that helps fulfil national needs and commitments biodiversity information.

Opportunities include:

  1. Participation in mentoring and training projects under the GBIF Capacity Enhancement Support Programme
  2. Participation in programmes like BID (Biodiversity Information for Development) and BIFA (Biodiversity Information Fund for Asia)
  3. Development of regional collaborations and strategies
  4. Establishment of working relationships with other GBIF Participants and the Secretariat
  5. Open-access information resources and tools for developing a national biodiversity information facility

GBIF's distributed structure functions through the efforts of Participants make in coordinating their own networks to mobilize and use primary biodiversity data. Researchers and decision-makers can then access and use best-available evidence to addressing national biodiversity priorities.

GBIF Participants that mobilize data from national institutions help the country meet its obligations and contribute to progress on targets and indicators for the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Data from the GBIF network also contributes towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), not just for the conservation of life on land and below water, but also for targets and indicators relating to food security, livelihoods, human health and impacts of climate change. GBIF's global-scale involvement with other multilateral agreements and processes can also support Participants' engagements in national-scale activities in support of initiatives like the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) among others.

GBIF nodes also coordinate and collaborate their own activities in six regional groupings. These settings give node staff opportunities to gain skills and share experiences, best practices and strategies for putting open-access data on biodiversity into use.

GBIF's national members often maintain their own open-access websites and data portals, including simple hosted portals. Such tools can help keep local scientists, researchers, citizens and policymakers informed about biodiversity while aligning with international commitments and requirements for biodiversity information and knowledge.

How to join

1. Choose the appropriate category of membership

GBIF has three types of Participants. The first two apply to countries, the third to all other organizations.

  • Voting Participants are countries that observe the provisions of the MOU and make a financial contribution to the annual GBIF budget. These Participants have voting rights on the GBIF Governing Board, as well as other benefits.
  • Associate Country Participants are not yet making financial contributions to GBIF. Associate Participants may take part in Governing Board discussions but may not vote. Countries can maintain Associate Participant status temporarily for up to five years after the MOU signing date. During this period, a country may choose to become a Voting Participant, an Observer, or may withdraw from GBIF.
  • Other Associate Participants are international organizations, intergovernmental organizations, other organizations with an international scope, and economies, that are willing to observe the MOU provisions. Their representatives can attend the GBIF Governing Board, endorse data publishers and collaborate in regional meetings, mentoring and training programmes and other activities, but they are not eligible to become Voting Participants, and are not required to make financial contributions.

2. Send a Letter of Intent

In order to become a Participant in GBIF, an appropriate government agency, or senior representative of an organization, should send an official Letter of Intent to the Chair of the Governing Board (see templates below), expressing intent to sign the MoU.

The letter should state that the country/organization agrees in principle with the intentions listed in the MOU and should, in particular, outline the willingness to establish a Participant Node, share biodiversity data and actively participate in the implementation of the GBIF Work Programme.

Letters of Intent signed by a Minister or ministerial department should include information on the agency or institution that has been designated to sign the MoU and represent the country on the GBIF Governing Board.

If a country wishes to become a Voting Participant it must, in addition, express its willingness to make a financial contribution to GBIF as outlined in Paragraph 9 of the MoU, and establish the details in a financial arrangement with the Secretariat.

The GBIF Executive Committee will consider all petitions for Participant status and will determine if the application meets the requirements of the MoU and GBIF Rules of Procedure. If a petition is granted, a MoU signature copy will be sent. In the case of Voting Participation, the Secretariat will in addition specify the financial contributions in a financial arrangement.

For further details of the procedure see Article IV – Requirements for Participation in the Rules of Procedure agreed by the Governing Board.

Prospective members should address their letters of intent to:

Chair of the GBIF Governing Board
GBIF Secretariat
Universitetsparken 15
DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø

Questions about participation may be directed to the GBIF director, Joe Miller.

3. Sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

After the GBIF Executive Committee receives and approves the petition to join GBIF as expressed in the letter of intent, the applicant will be informed, and the designated minister, official or other representative may sign the MOU.

Upon receipt of the signed MOU, the country or organization becomes a GBIF Participant and will receive information about next steps, including the appointment of a Head of Delegation and a node manager (details about roles and responsibilities).