Share your dirt: Call for data papers describing datasets on soil biodiversity

GBIF continues partnership with FinBIF and Pensoft to support publication of new datasets about organisms whose life cycles depend on soil
DEADLINE: 22 September 2023

Dicyrtomina ornata-iNat-alours-hero
The springtail Dicyrtomina ornata, observed in France. Photo 2022 Alexis Lours via iNaturalist Research-grade Observations, licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Data paper webinar: Register for our webinar on 30 March 2023 to learn more about this call and data papers in general.

In collaboration with the Finnish Biodiversity Information Facility (FinBIF) and Pensoft Publishers, GBIF has announced a new call for authors to submit and publish data papers on soil biodiversity in a special collection of Biodiversity Data Journal (BDJ). The call expands upon the partners’ successful efforts to mobilize data in 2020-2022.

Until 22 September 2023, Pensoft will waive the article processing fee (normally €650) for the first 40 accepted data paper manuscripts that meet the following criteria for describing a dataset:

See the complete definition of these terms below.

Detailed instructions

Authors must prepare the manuscript in English and submit it in accordance with BDJ’s instructions to authors by 22 September 2023. Late submissions will not be eligible for APC waivers.

Sponsorship is limited to the first 40 accepted submissions meeting these criteria on a first-come, first-served basis. The call for submissions can therefore close prior to the deadline of 22 September 2023. Authors may contribute to more than one manuscript, but artificial division of the logically uniform data and data stories, or “salami publishing”, is not allowed.

BDJ will publish a special issue including the selected papers. The journal is indexed by Web of Science (Impact Factor 1.54) and Scopus (CiteScore: 1.8).

For non-native speakers, please ensure that your English is checked either by native speakers or by professional English-language editors prior to submission. You may credit these individuals as a “Contributor” through the ARPHA Writing Tool (AWT) interface. Contributors are not listed as co-authors but can help you improve your manuscripts.

In addition to the BDJ instruction to authors, data papers must reference the dataset by
a) citing the dataset's DOI
b) appearing in the paper's list of references
c) including "Soil Biodiversity 2023" in the Project Data: Title and "Soil-2023" in Project Data: Identifier in the dataset’s metadata.

Authors should explore the section on data papers and Strategies and guidelines for scholarly publishing of biodiversity data. Manuscripts and datasets will go through a standard peer-review process. When submitting a manuscript to BDJ, authors are requested to assign their manuscript to the Topical Collection: Soil biodiversity at step 3 of the submission process. To initiate the manuscript submission, remember to press the Submit to the journal button.

To see an example, view this dataset on and the corresponding data paper published by BDJ.

Questions may be directed either to Dmitry Schigel, GBIF scientific officer, or Yasen Mutafchiev, managing editor of BDJ.

This project is a continuation of successful calls for data papers in 2020-2022. The sponsored papers will be available in a special collection in BDJ, and the corresponding datasets will be shown on the project page at

Definition of terms

Datasets with more than 5,000 presence records new to

Datasets should contain at a minimum 5,000 presence records new to While the focus is on additional records on soil biodiversity, records already published in GBIF may meet the criteria of 'new' if they are substantially improved, particularly through the addition of georeferenced locations. Artificial reduction of records from otherwise uniform datasets to the necessary minimum (“salami publishing”) is discouraged and may result in rejection of the manuscript. New submissions describing updates of datasets already presented in earlier published data papers will not be sponsored. Justification for publishing datasets with fewer records (e.g. sampling-event datasets, sequence-based data, checklists with endemics etc.) will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

A lot of soil biodiversity research is carried out using environmental DNA (eDNA) and metabarcoding methods, and we welcome submissions not only based not only on morphological, but also on DNA- based detections and identifications. Datasets based on eDNA metabarcoding typically contain millions of sequence reads, with each presence record often represented by thousands of the reads. Therefore, a dataset with more than 5,000 sequence reads does not make a data paper eligible for sponsorship, but a data paper based on a dataset with more than 5,000 unique presence occurrences across a number of samples can be eligible. In such studies numbers of species (OTUs/ASVs), numbers of samples, numbers of sampling events can vary greatly, and your study design dictates the best way to capture these specifics.

At the same time, as mentioned above, authors are expected to publish that in their fullest form, with as many samples and species/taxa from the same study as possible. Note that while DNA-derived datasets based on qPCR only (without sequencing) are also eligible, authors are encouraged to publish both presence and absence records in qPCR datasets. In such cases, only number of presences will be taken into account for the sponsorship eligibility, and the same principle applies for all sampling event datasets. For details on data preparation, see guide to Publishing DNA-derived data through biodiversity data platforms.

Datasets with high-quality data and metadata

Authors should start by publishing a dataset comprised of data and metadata that meets GBIF's stated data quality requirement. This effort will involve work on an installation of the GBIF Integrated Publishing Toolkit. BDJ will conduct its standard data audit and technical review. All datasets must pass the data audit prior to a manuscript being forwarded for peer review.

Only when the dataset is prepared should authors then turn to working on the manuscript text. The extended metadata you enter in the IPT while describing your dataset can be converted into manuscript with a single-click of a button in the AWT (see also Creation and Publication of Data Papers from Ecological Metadata Language (EML) Metadata. Authors can then complete, edit and submit manuscripts to BDJ for review.

Datasets with coverage on soil biodiversity

In correspondence with the funding priorities of this call, at least 80 per cent of the records in a dataset should have records on soil biodiversity. Such species/taxa are broadly defined as spending at least one stage of a life cycle in soil. Other associations with soil (such as trophic links, temporary shelter instead of permanent habitat) will be considered by the handling editors on a case by case basis.