Endorsement guidelines

Criteria and guidelines on the processes for GBIF Participants to evaluate and endorse new data publishers

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Yellow cobblestone lichen (Acarospora socialis). Photo by Ken-ichi Ueda via iNaturalist licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

New data publishers have to request endorsement from GBIF Participants. This community-led process seeks to ensure that:

  • Data are relevant to GBIF’s scope and objectives
  • Data hosting arrangements are stable and persistent
  • National, regional and thematic networks are actively engaged in data publishing and use
  • Data can be openly shared and reused
  • Data quality can be improved by data publishers responding to feedback

Endorsement criteria

A Participant node manager should endorse a prospective publisher if he or she judges that the applicant acts as the authorized representative of a bona fide institution or entity that fulfills the following criteria:

  1. The publisher has or will have datasets of potential scientific interest consistent with GBIF’s mission
  2. The publisher has either the technical capacity or access to technical capacity to ensure that the datasets are available online in standard formats
  3. The publisher can be expected to respond to requests for further information or feedback relating to the data they publish
  4. The publisher understands and accepts the terms of the GBIF data publisher agreement

Node Managers make judgments based on the information provided in the questionnaire and, where appropriate, through direct communication with the prospective publisher. Ideally, publishers should meet the criteria when they register, but they must demonstrate their understanding of the requirements and present appropriate plans for publishing data (in collaboration with the endorsing node and/or the Secretariat, as appropriate).

Endorsement guidelines for Participants

Minimum requirements for endorsement

It is highly recommended that endorsers check that the prospective publisher has satisfactorily addressed the questions on the following aspects:

Existence or authenticity of the institution/organization

This step ensures that GBIF endorses only institutions or organizations known to exist. Societies and networks qualify to be treated as organizations.

Individuals are not currently eligible for registration but they can publish through an institution/organization or network, and should be properly credited and cited as the owners or authors of the respective datasets. Knowing the address of the institution and the appropriate contacts will facilitate communication and networking, for example in dealing with queries and feedback on data quality.

NOTE: We highly recommended that prospective publishers provide two contacts so that we can contact an alternate in the event that the lead individual cannot be reached.

Scope aligned with the GBIF mission

This is to ensure that nodes endorse only those institutions dealing with datasets relevant to GBIF’s current scope of activities. The guidance provided to prospective publishers defines such data as:

Nodes are requested not to endorse institutions that appear to hold data entirely outside the current scope of GBIF’s mission. To help with this judgment, prospective publishers are requested to provide links to example datasets and/or attach example spreadsheets that will be forwarded to nodes where available. It should be noted that some publishers may deliver data beyond their own individual institutional scope as they may host datasets from diverse institutions. If in doubt, please consult the GBIF Secretariat helpdesk.

Stable data-hosting services or a third-party host identified

GBIF.org provides data-access services to an index of published primary data and metadata. The responsibility of hosting the original data remains with the data publisher or owner.

Answers to hosting-related questions will help the Node Manager and the Secretariat to support data publishers in finding a hosting solution if they do not yet have one. Many new publishers may not meet this requirement when they first register.

Node Managers should examine possible solutions that would enable this criterion to be met. The node institution itself may be able to offer a technical hosting solution or may request such facilities from other publishers within its network. The Secretariat may be able to offer advice on alternative hosting solutions.

Acceptance of the GBIF data publisher agreement

A new publisher applies for registration because it expects to publish datasets on GBIF.org. In keeping with GBIF’s commitment to promote open access and a re-use culture, publishers are expected to understand from the outset that they should not impose unnecessary restrictions on their data. To be endorsed, publishers must accept the conditions specified in the data publishers agreement, including the assignment of one of the three Creative Commons licenses—CC0, CC-BY or CC-BY-NC—to the datasets they publish on GBIF.org.

Responsiveness to feedback

New publishers should be willing to respond to questions and feedback from users of their data. The publisher may delegate the task to individual owners of the datasets. Annotations and community curation may reduce publishers from some of this responsibility in the future, but the general policy remains to ensure best possible data quality at source.

A negative answer to this question should not result in denial of endorsement, but Node Managers should in such circumstances encourage publishers to find alternative solutions since this responsibility is critical in furthering the quality and value of published data.

Additional guidance notes

How far should datasets be evaluated during endorsement?

While the formal endorsement of an institution does not require the evaluation of data (other than examining example datasets to ensure the institution is within the scope of a GBIF data publisher), it is nevertheless very valuable to take the opportunity of the endorsement stage to establish an ongoing working relationship between the endorsing node and the new publisher. Dataset evaluation, including the application of quality control routines, is an optional step practised by some nodes and forms part of wider community efforts to improve the fitness-for-use of data accessed through the GBIF network. Evaluation of datasets will be the subject of a separate process.

What if the endorser has doubts?

If the Node Manager has doubts on any points based on the information provided in the questionnaire, s/he should contact the prospective publisher for clarification. Node Managers are also at liberty to carry out due diligence about the organization/institution by making inquiries within the community, checking online sources or other means of investigation. The Node Manager should strive to use all available information provided by the prospective publisher, and from other sources when necessary, in making a fair judgment in the spirit of acting as a good ‘gatekeeper’ for the GBIF community and furthering its mission.

Does endorsing a data publisher have legal implications?

The endorsement process is a GBIF community procedure and not a legal process. In general, the GBIF community recommends an inclusive rather than over-restrictive approach, and where criteria are not met initially, nodes should seek potential solutions before recommending that endorsement be denied.

If an endorsement is denied, can the prospective publisher seek endorsement by another endorsing node or challenge the decision?

In principle the GBIF community should strive to be inclusive and work with prospective publishers so that they can meet the minimum requirements for endorsement. If endorsement is denied, the node should clearly explain the reasons to the Secretariat so that the decision may be communicated to the applicant. If the institution disagrees with the decision it may request the Participant node to reconsider. If the issues are not resolved, the prospective publisher may forward the request to the Nodes Steering Group (NSG), and if necessary the GBIF Executive (EC) will act as final arbiter.

Is an endorsement valid forever or can it be revoked?

In principle endorsement should be a one-time process. In the unlikely event that an endorsed institution is deemed unsuitable to continue as a GBIF publisher, a Participant node may revoke its endorsement by notifying the Secretariat and explaining the reasons. If the publisher challenges this decision and the issue cannot be resolved through discussion, the EC will decide whether the institution may continue as a data publisher. An institution whose endorsement is revoked can reapply to become a data publisher again, following the endorsement procedure as a new data publisher and demonstrating that the issues leading to its removal have been addressed.

What happens to publishers endorsed by the Participant Node Managers Committee when their country becomes a GBIF Participant?

If a country joins GBIF and there are existing publishers endorsed by the Participant Node Managers Committee, endorsement will be transferred to the new national node.

Timeliness of responses

Nodes are encouraged to respond promptly to endorsement requests, and in all cases within 30 days. In cases where more time is required, for example to help a prospective publisher to resolve issues preventing it from meeting the criteria for endorsement, the node should keep the Secretariat informed of progress. If no response is received within 30 days, the Nodes Steering Group will investigate the reasons for delay, and in the last resort will follow the procedures for community‐level endorsement outlined below.

Endorsement guidelines for community-level endorsement by the Nodes Steering Group

For cases in which a prospective data publisher is in a country not yet participating in GBIF, and has no connections with an existing Participant node, the Secretariat will write to the holders of the following positions in the NSG, to request an endorsing node to be identified:

  1. NSG Chair
  2. NSG first Vice Chair
  3. NSG second Vice Chair
  4. Regional Representative (where relevant)
  5. Regional Deputy Representative (where relevant)

The respective Regional Representative will identify an endorsing node if the prospective publisher falls clearly within their respective region, and inform the other NSG members and copy GBIFS. The GBIFS will communicate with the identified endorser on behalf of the NSG, when at least 3 NSG members have responded and agreed, by furnishing the endorser with the completed questionnaire from the prospective publisher as well as the guidelines and criteria for endorsement.

The NSG post holders through their chair may endorse a prospective publisher without reverting to identify a node to carry out the procedure in the following cases:

  1. If a publisher is from a country that does not fall in any specific GBIF region.
  2. Where the NSG makes a judgment that identifying a specific node to carry out the endorsement might lead to negative sensitivities.
  3. If an endorsing node identified by the NSG becomes unresponsive to GBIFS and NSG communications, or fails to complete the endorsement procedure in reasonable time and the NSG considers it not feasible to identify a new endorsing node.

All endorsements that will be done through the NSG will be regarded as endorsements by the Nodes Committee and only the collective name, ‘Participant Node Managers Committee’, will appear on GBIF website as the endorser and not the specific name of the endorsing node if involved.

If a country joins GBIF and there are existing publishers endorsed by the Nodes Committee, endorsement will be transferred to the new national node.

The criteria and guidelines for community-level endorsement are the same as those for national-level endorsement.