Ocean Biodiversity Information System and GBIF update and expand cooperation agreement

Renewal of partnership with OBIS targets improved data exchange, better network coordination and shared guidance on publishing marine biodiversity data

Giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera), Cape Town, South Africa. Photo 2020 Callum Evans via iNaturalist Research-grade Observations, licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

GBIF and OBIS—the Ocean Biodiversity Information System—have signed a new five-year agreement to promote further cooperation across a wide range of activities and services between the two global biodiversity data networks.

The Letter of Agreement targets both technical collaboration covering data standards, publishing and processing; and institutional collaboration to ensure closer ties between OBIS and GBIF nodes, shared training opportunities and aligned documentation.

This is the second multi-year agreement between the two networks, which both mark their 20th anniversaries in 2020-2021.

OBIS, originally called the Ocean Biogeographic Information System, was founded in May 2000 under the Census of Marine Life, and is now a project of the International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE) programme of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO. It aims to be the most comprehensive data and information gateway on the diversity, distribution and abundance of marine life to support its Member States in achieving a healthy and resilient ocean ecosystem.

GBIF—the Global Biodiversity Information Facility—was formally established in September 2001 as a voluntary collaboration between governments, with the aim of providing anyone, anywhere with free and open access to data about all types of life on Earth.

GBIF and OBIS already collaborate in many areas, such as working with the same data standards and supporting tools like the Integrated Publishing Toolkit, developed by the GBIF community and used by OBIS as the recommended platform for sharing marine data. However, both networks recognize that their respective user communities and data-publishing institutions will benefit from more streamlined ways of working together.

The specific areas covered by the new Letter of Agreement include:

  • Cooperating on further interoperability of data through Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG)
  • Coordination at governance level including shared membership of scientific and technical advisory groups
  • Further encouragement for institutions to share marine data through both platforms in a single publishing step, with closer ties between GBIF and OBIS nodes and data publishers
  • Working jointly on data processing and other technologies to ensure the most efficient data pipelines for both networks
  • Collaborating on the incorporation of novel data streams, such as occurrence data derived from genetic sequences, remote sensing and other sources
  • To the extent possible, align written guidance on the publication of data through GBIF and OBIS respectively
  • Collaborating on staff exchanges, shared training opportunities, capacity enhancement and fundraising

“Together, the communities of researchers and data managers that use and contribute to GBIF and OBIS have the knowledge and skills to help the world address threats to biodiversity and find pathways to sustainable ecosystems,” said Sky Bristol, co-Chair of the OBIS Steering Group. “The new agreement helps both communities continue realizing new opportunities for collaboration toward common goals.”

“As GBIF and OBIS both enter their third decade, it’s increasingly important that we pool our resources and the experience built up by both communities,” said Joe Miller, GBIF Executive Secretary. “This new agreement offers many opportunities to work more closely together than ever to ensure that research and policy on marine biodiversity benefit from the best and most complete data available.”