A look back at GBIF in 2017

The past year showed increases in web traffic, users, downloads, and scientific use of GBIF-mediated data

Giant cactus
Among occurrence records with images published in GBIF, the giant cactus (Carnegiea gigantea) was the top species in 2017. Photo by CK Kelly licensed under CC BY 4.0.

As we bid our farewells to 2017 and begin a new year, we take a moment to recap some of the highlights in data, metrics, numbers and uses. Let’s dig in…

Data in GBIF.org

The species occurrence counter stood at just under 703 million records at the beginning of 2017. During the year, the number increased by 37 per cent, so that as 2017 ended, 964 million species occurrences were available through GBIF.org. Some of the new records came from additions to existing datasets, while others arrived in the more than 6,000 datasets newly published during 2017. This surge derives from an increase of 281 publishing institutions across the network—more than one for each working day of the year. This is only possible through the efforts of GBIF’s national and thematic nodes, and also the projects taking part in the BID and BIFA programmes, helping to bring new countries and publishing institutions into the network.

Breaking down the new species occurences added in 2017 by countries, here are the top 10:

  1. United States (75,459,902)
  2. United Kingdom (61,271,306)
  3. Australia (38,108,415)
  4. Sweden (32,167,163)
  5. Finland (24,822,949)
  6. Denmark (19,413,633)
  7. Spain (12,797,843)
  8. Canada (12,537,299)
  9. Belgium (8,773,095)
  10. Germany (5,705,020)

The species that added the most occurrences in 2017 was the mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) with 109,465 new records. While birds dominate the top of the list, due in large part to the eBird Observational Dataset, top observed mammals included the European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) with 12,621 records, while the red admiral (Vanessa atalanta) was on the top among insects.

For a more detailed taxonomic breakdown of new data, check out the updated global data trends.

Users of GBIF.org

During 2017, users accessed GBIF.org more than 1.6 million times, each visit lasting more than six minutes and covering four pages on average- a total of more than 7 million pages viewed. During these visits, 12,446 of these users requested 112,842 downloads containing a total of 844 billion records, amounting to increases of 24, 17, and 199(!) per cent, respectively compared to 2016. The top three downloading countries in 2017 were Mexico, United States, and Brazil.

2017 also saw the launch of the new and improved GBIF.org portal, which on average received 158 more visits per day compared to the previous version of the site throughout the year. Comparing both old and new site traffic with 2016 is difficult, however, weighted averages show that visits are up slightly and bounce rates down, in particular when looking at numbers for the new site.

Scientific use of GBIF-mediated data

By monitoring scientific literature, we logged 696 new, peer-reviewed articles citing substantive use of GBIF-mediated data in 2017, representing a 59 per cent increase compared to 2016. While citation practice still varies greatly, the use of DOIs in data citations is also going up, as 117 publications used DOIs for citing GBIF-mediated data in 2017 compared to only 41 in 2016. This, however, means that four in five publications still use data from GBIF.org without a proper citation.

The GBIF network is engaging with authors and journal publishers to ensure proper data citation, so we expect to see an increase in DOI citations for downloads. Such improvements will not only establish greater transparency about the use of GBIF-mediated data in scientific publications but will also help demonstrate for publishers the value of sharing their data.