About GBIF

Founded in 2001, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) is an international organisation dedicated to making biodiversity data freely and easily accessible through the internet.

International network

GBIF currently comprises more than 50 countries and almost just as many international organisations. The membership of GBIF consists of countries and international organisations that have signed a Memorandum of Understanding stating they will share biodiversity data and contribute to the development of an efficient infrastructure to make those data available online.

Why is GBIF necessary?

Policy makers, scientists or interested citizens who wish to map where and when which species occur or occurred, need data. These data exist, in great amounts, but often access to them is denied, limited, or reserved to a limited group of users. To facilitate good research, government transparency and initiatives from society, it is necessary to make biodiversity data findable and useable to large groups of users. For more than 10 years now, GBIF is working on the infrastructure to make this possible.


GBIF stems from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). At the end of the 1990s, a specific Megascience Forum within the OECD concluded that an abundance of knowledge and data had been gathered on the occurrence of plant, animal and micro-organism species on this planet, but that these data were often difficult or impossible to access. That is a problem because it is precisely now – with climatic changes fully underway and increasing pressure on the green reserves of this earth – that having full access to biodiversity data is necessary to be able to put it to the best possible use. Moreover, combined with new technological developments, all these data provide an opportunity to conduct a new form of (data) science, stimulate economic development, and to share knowledge quickly and easily between rich and poor, between North and South, between data owners and data users.

GBIF was officially founded in 2001 with its headquarters in Copenhagen, Denmark. The current Executive Secretary is Dr. Donald Hobern.

Access to data

Access to biodiversity data is an important but also difficult topic. Many government and research institutions do not have a real data policy. Exactly what open data are and what not is often unclear. In GBIF’s view, open data are genuinely open data, accessible to everyone without any restrictions. If data owners do not wish to share certain data this is of course possible, data can be blurred or entirely removed from a data set. Within GBIF, data owners always remain responsible for their data and keep full control over access to them.

GBIF Infrastructure

GBIF is a typical Open Access initiative with a strong ICT component and is the only international eScience data infrastructure for biodiversity-related research. During the past ten years, GBIF has built up an infrastructure with tools, data protocols and standards that make it possible to standardise, register, validate and publish data.

At the technical level, GBIF consists of a distributed network of data sets accessible through portals and in which data can be found, processed and used.

International organisations and initiatives of relevance to The Netherlands using the GBIF infrastructure include:

  • The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations
  • The Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS)
  • Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) for establishing the 2010 and 2020 Biodiversity Targets
  • Convention on Migratory Species (CMS)
  • United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
  • GEO BON, het internationale Earth Observation network  

At the European level, the GBIF infrastructure is used by:

  • The ESFRI project LifeWatch, started and coordinated by The Netherlands, both parties have formalised their collaboration in a GBIF – LifeWatch Memorandum of Cooperation.
  • The European plant genetic resource network EURISCO.

National GBIF hub: NLBIF

The Netherlands has signed the GBIF Memorandum of Understanding, thereby committing itself to realising GBIF’s objectives and work plans on a national level, by means of a national GBIF Node. This node, the Netherlands Biodiversity Information Facility (NLBIF), was founded in 2002 by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW), the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and the University of Amsterdam (UvA), in the form of a foundation. 

Information about GBIF

GBIF has compiled information about itself on: http://www.gbif.org/whatisgbif . GBIF also has a bimonthly electronic newsletter, GBits, compiled by the GBIF Secretariat, along with the GBits Science Supplement. You can subscribe to this newsletter on the GBIF site: http://www.gbif.org/newsroom/summary/#signup.