GBIF—the Global Biodiversity Information Facility—is an international network and research infrastructure funded by the world’s governments and aimed at providing anyone, anywhere, open access to data about all types of life on Earth.
Coordinated through its Secretariat in Copenhagen, the GBIF network of participating countries and organizations, working through participant nodes, provides data-holding institutions around the world with common standards and open-source tools that enable them to share information about where and when species have been recorded. This knowledge derives from many sources, including everything from museum specimens collected in the 18th and 19th century to geotagged smartphone photos shared by amateur naturalists in recent days and weeks.
The GBIF network draws all these sources together through the use of the Darwin Core standard, which forms the basis of GBIF.org’s index of hundreds of millions of species occurrence records. Publishers provide open access to their datasets using machine-readable Creative Commons licence designations, allowing scientists, researchers and others to apply the data in hundreds of peer-reviewed publications and policy papers each year. Many of these analyses—which cover topics from the impacts of climate change and the spread of invasive and alien pests to priorities for conservation and protected areas, food security and human health— would not be possible without this.
GBIF arose from a 1999 recommendation by the Biodiversity Informatics Subgroup of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Megascience Forum. This report concluded that “An international mechanism is needed to make biodiversity data and information accessible worldwide”, arguing that this mechanism could produce many economic and social benefits and enable sustainable development by providing sound scientific evidence. The OECD panel specifically recommended the establishment of a Global Biodiversity Information Facility, to “enable users to navigate and put to use vast quantities of biodiversity information, advancing scientific research … serving the economic and quality-of-life interests of society, and providing a basis from which our knowledge of the natural world can grow rapidly and in a manner that avoids duplication of effort and expenditure.” That recommendation was endorsed by OECD science ministers and, in 2001, GBIF was officially established through Memorandum of Understanding between participating governments. The central facilities of the global organization and certain activities outside the secretariat in Copenhagen is funded through economic commitment by its voting members.
The Swedish GBIF node is responsible for collecting information on natural history collections and species observations from Swedish museums, authorities, organizations and research centers and delivers these data to GBIF.org. Since the start in 2003, the node has been located at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm at the Department for Bioinformatics and Genetics, development and running costs initially funded direct by the Swedish Government, but since 2012 by applying in full competition with other initiatives for research infrastructure funds in Sweden, notably from the Swedish Research Council. Separately covering the international membership fee to the global organization the SRC appoints the Head of Delegation with the right to vote in meetings with the GBIF Governing Board. Since 2018, GBIF-Sweden is part of the Swedish national research infrastructure Biodiversity Atlas Sweden (BAS), and leads the development of the BioAtlas data portal. From 2021 GBIF-Sweden will become an integral but independent part of SBDI.