Data unification!

Sharing of world's biodiversity information moves one step closer

 

The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) was established in March 2001 as an international endeavour to make the world's scientific biodiversity data freely and openly available via an interconnected set of dispersed databases.
 
The UK, through Defra working with a stakeholder group, is a full member of GBIF. JNCC, for Defra, chairs the UK stakeholder group and has a place on the governing board. This allows us an active role in setting GBIF's objectives and work programmes. GBIF now has a fully staffed secretariat housed in a purpose-built extension to the Natural History Museum of Copenhagen, Denmark, and as an outcome of the 7th governing board meeting in April 2003, is starting to commission work on digitising data, demonstration projects and data exchange standards.
 
As GBIF has established its work programmes, the governing board rapidly recognised that the people practically involved in delivering access to information within each participating country and
international organisation needed to have a role in informing the work, testing the standards and influencing future work programme development. The result was the creation of a 'nodes' committee, where the official body responsible for organising access to information (the node) within each country or international organisation provided a manager to work on the committee. To help GBIF get this new group working effectively, several delegations, including the UK, responded to a request made at the October 2002 meeting of GBIF in San Jose, Costa Rica, for support and hosting of the first main planning meeting of the nodes committee.
 
As a result, JNCC then worked with The Natural History Museum and the NBN Trust to put together a meeting package that was welcomed by GBIF. The result of a lot of preparatory work by the partners was an intensive three days of meetings for node managers between 26th-28th February 2003 at the Spencer Gallery of The Natural History Museum. Over 60 representatives from most of the countries and international bodies participating in GBIF attended.
 
The meeting rapidly focused the participants in GBIF on the work needed to start delivering some accessible information globally by December 2003. The meeting also reviewed the GBIF network design which includes some elements that could help the UK build the NBN. The UK, with NBN and our tradition of institutions which maintain large collections of flora and fauna, is now recognised within GBIF as having tackled access to biodiversity data more comprehensively than elsewhere, and the meeting, which included NBN and Museum presentations, was a good opportunity to pass on lessons learnt to other GBIF participants and to foster a commonality of approach. Equally important, both the GBIF itself, and the country participants, felt the meeting was well organised and enjoyable, and, hopefully, will regard UK influence within GBIF favourably as a result.
 
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