It was only 60 years ago, in 1953, when Watson and Creek published the DNA double-helix model on Nature. Since then, just over half a century later, we have been able to sequence entire genomes of animals, plants and microbes. Tools such as physical and chemical sensors, imaging systems, remote-sensing systems and global positioning tools have enabled us to collect an enormous amount of data that can help us understand the complexity of the variety of life on Earth.
But how can we harness, organize and make all this knowledge of biodiversity available so it can be shared and used to inform policies and investments for a sustainable future? This is where the ‘Global Biodiversity Informatics Outlook (GBIO)’ steps in. GBIO sets out a framework to harness the immense power of information technology and an open data culture to gather unprecedented evidence about biodiversity and to inform better decisions.
GBIO is the result of an international scientific collaboration, including Bioversity International scientists Elizabeth Arnaud, co-author of the report, and Ehsan Dulloo, consulted expert, that started in July 2012 at the Global Biodiversity Informatics Conference.
The framework identifies four major areas of action:
- Create a culture of shared expertise, robust common data standards, policies and incentives for data sharing and a system of persistent storage and archiving of data
- Mobilize biodiversity data from all available sources, to make them promptly and routinely available.
- Provide the tools to convert data into evidence
- Generate understanding of biodiversity and our impacts upon it.
"This report is offered as a roadmap for us all," said Donald Hobern, Executive Secretary of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. "We urge governments and funding bodies to support the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity by investing resources in mobilizing biodiversity information as part of a globally coordinated activity. The most critical need is for governments to legislate and provide incentives for all stakeholders to contribute their biodiversity data as part of a shared knowledge base from which we can all benefit."
GBIO has been presented at the recent 17th meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and will be a key reference document for the biodiversity informatics community. During SBSTTA, the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Braulio Dias, has called for ”continuous partnership” to enhance access to biodiversity data, following the framework of the Global Biodiversity Informatics Outlook, coordinated by the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. Dias concluded: “I would like to suggest that we transform this into a framework for a continuous partnership or initiative to help the implementation of Aichi Target 19 [on enhancing and sharing biodiversity knowledge] and benefiting implementation of all the other targets.”
The Global Biodiversity Informatics Outlook is accompanied by a website where you can find updates on progress towards each part of the framework and it will also provide a forum for ideas, projects and funding sources that support the goals of the Outlook.
Download the GBIO report here.
Visit the GBIO website