2019 GBIF Ebbe Nielsen Challenge seeks open-data innovations for biodiversity

Deadline for open-ended incentive competition: 1 August 2019


The 2019 Ebbe Nielsen Challenge is now closed for submissions. We expect to announce this year's winners in Leiden, Netherlands, at biodiversity_next during the week of 21 October—stay tuned!

Are you an open data champion? The 2019 Ebbe Nielsen Challenge will award up to €34,000 in prizes to the most innovative entries that leverage biodiversity data and tools from the GBIF network to advance open science.

Between 23 January and 1 August, individuals and teams can prepare tools and techniques that improve the access, usefulness and quality of open biodiversity data and submit them to this open-ended incentive competition.

Challenge entries can take any number of approaches. Entrants may choose to develop new applications, visualizations, methods, workflows or analyses, often (but not always) making use of the GBIF API to access data. You may also build on or extend the capabilities of existing tools and features from across the GBIF network. We encourage entrants to review previous winners as well as previous entries—for ideas, problems or approaches you may wish to pursue (see below).

Entries should benefit multiple stakeholder groups, including data users, data holders and data managers. You may wish to review the GBIF Communications Strategy to see how we describe GBIF's audiences.

We will assemble an expert jury to judge the entries that we receive on their openness and repeatability, relevance and novelty. Winners will be announced in October 2019 at the 26th GBIF Governing Board meeting in Leiden, the Netherlands.

The Challenge honours the memory of Dr Ebbe Schmidt Nielsen, an inspirational leader in the fields of biosystematics and biodiversity informatics and a principal founder of GBIF, who died unexpectedly just before it came into being.

Official rules: 2019 GBIF Ebbe Nielsen Challenge
Entry form: 2019 GBIF Ebbe Nielsen Challenge

The following summary of rules and requirements does not replace or supercede the official rules. Send questions or requests for clarifications to ENChallenge@gbif.org.

Submission deadline

  • 1 August 2019, 1600 Central European Summer Time | UTC +2


The Challenge is open to individuals, teams of individuals, companies and their employees, and governmental agencies and their employees.

The Challenge is not open to:

  • Current staff members at the GBIF Secretariat
  • Individuals currently under direct contract to the GBIF Secretariat
  • Members of the GBIF Science Committee
  • Heads of Delegation to GBIF

Submission requirements

Entrants must complete the entry form, which provides information about the entry, including:

  • Submission name/title
  • Team member(s) names and affiliations
  • Abstract and rationale
  • Operating instructions
  • Link to visuals (prototype, demo, video, screenshots, slides, etc.)
  • Link(s) to submission materials on any appropriate website or repository

The judges and GBIF Secretariat staff must be able to

  • access and operate or review the submission at no cost
  • operate it on readily available hardware (if the submission is a stand-alone application)
  • repeat any processes or routines, if the submission is a script or other automated solution

Each submission must include both a video demonstration and a written description

The video must demonstrate the use of the system and include explanations of inputs, process and outputs.

The written description must address the innovation and impact of the system, including the goals of the development, the tools used, and the ways that GBIF data is used by the system.

Entrants can prepare and document their entries on any repository or platform you're comfortable with—GitHub, Dryad, FigShare, Open Science Framework, Jupyter Notebook—or use their own website.

By encouraging entrants to use tools that you're already familiar and comfortable with, we hope that anyone interested in submitting can focus squarely on questions of what, why and how—

  • what the submission is
  • why it matters to the GBIF communities it is intended to serve
  • how it works

What should I create?

The 2019 Ebbe Nielsen Challenge is deliberately open-ended, so entrants have a broad remit for creating tools and techniques that advance in open science and improve the access, utility or quality of GBIF-mediated data. Challenge submissions may be new applications, visualization methods, workflows or analyses, or they build on and extend existing tools and features.

It is expected that successful entries provide practical, pragmatic solutions for the GBIF network while advancing biodiversity informatics and biodiversity data management in relation to the GBIF mission and strategic plan.


A panel of expert judges from relevant scientific, informatics and technology domains will evaluate submissions based on the following criteria:

  • Openness and repeatability: Are the constituent elements of the submission, like code and content, freely available and transparent? Are they appropriately licensed?
  • Applicability: Does the submission have sufficient relevance and scope that the communities GBIF support can use or build it?
  • Novelty Has a significant portion of the submission been developed specifically for the challenge? Submissions based largely or entirely on previously published work are not deemed to be eligible entries.

Jury members will score entries based on four categories:

  • Innovation
  • Impact
  • Quality of the system
  • Overall quality of the submission

Past winners and past entries

2018 Ebbe Nielsen Challenge Winners All entries
2016 Ebbe Nielsen Challenge Winners All entries
2015 Ebbe Nielsen Challenge Winners All entries