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  • Writer's pictureJoe Miller, GBIF Executive Secretary

Future-facing steps for the alliance

Updated: Sep 14, 2022

As if we needed more reminders of the urgent threats facing our countries and communities, this week has already featured news of accelerating land degradation, the increased likelihood of future climate-drive disease spillover and the risk of global marine extinctions alongside coverage of a devastating early heat wave in the Indian subcontinent. Members of biodiversity informatics communities must work together to respond with much more than deliberate speed.

Emerging from the 2nd Global Biodiversity Informatics Conference (GBIC2) in 2018, the alliance for biodiversity knowledge presents a framework for aligning investments in biodiversity informatics. By bringing together stakeholders and communities working on similar projects and research questions, the alliance coordinates the development of shared road maps to deliver the biodiversity evidence needed for science, policy and society.

Having coordinated several virtual consultations during the past two years, we are now moving to develop a more robust governance model for the alliance and its future activities. As the convenor for the alliance, GBIF—the Global Biodiversity Information Facility—is now seeking a contractor to analyse alliance activities to date, research suitable structures and propose appropriate governance for both the alliance and an associated project office.

With this analysis in hand, we aim to ramp up activities around the alliance. The likely appointment of a programme manager to develop the project office will accelerate coordination activities, including preparations for a virtual GBIC3 in late 2022 or early 2023, where signatories and stakeholders will explore and discuss the report recommendations and how our shared work will proceed.

Post-2020 vision for the alliance

At GBIF’s 28th Governing Board, we outlined a vision for the alliance with four pillars:

  • Support for science and evidence-based planning

  • Support for open data and open science

  • Support for highly-connected biodiversity data

  • Support for international collaboration

To date, the majority of the alliance’s efforts have centered on key data infrastructure aspects, with an emphasis on collaborations that can enhance collective knowledge and make research more efficient. But 2022 will include at least two consultations related to biodiversity data and policy.

In preparation for the Fifteenth Convention of the Parties (COP15) to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Kunming, China, GBIF and the alliance are finalizing preparations for an upcoming webinar and community consultation. With help from key partners across the science-policy interface, the consultation will engage those involved in developing global and national indicators under the CBD’s post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) and Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs). The discussion will leverage (among other things) a GBIF-commissioned study by VertNET that analyzed the dependence of the past and future indicator frameworks on primary biodiversity data.

An opening webinar on 13 September will kick off a two-week moderated consultation to address the themes around (watch the recording here):

  • Improving data models and standards for improved usability

  • Addressing spatial, temporal and taxonomic biases in primary biodiversity data

  • Increasing transparency in processes for indicator development

In addition to exploring how to improve workflows around the primary biodiversity data on which indicators and EBVs rely, the discussion will also highlight the key role of biodiversity observation networks and information facilities in achieving the goals of the post-2020 GBF.

Later in the year, we expect to convene a discussion arising from growing interest in policy options that account for phylogenetic diversity (PD). This fundamental aspect of the evolutionary history of biodiversity can serve as an effective indicator for conservation. GBIF and partners at UNITE, the IUCN SSC Phylogenetic Diversity Task Force (PDTF), Open Tree of Life, and the University of New South Wales are currently engaged in a pilot study to develop policy-relevant data pipelines for phylogenetic diversity. A virtual consultation later this year will offer an opportunity to share our progress and assess the results.

alliance and biodiversity infrastructure

The alliance’s abiding interest in infrastructure still remains. The most recent partnership between Catalogue of Life (COL) and GBIF has produced CheckListBank, an open taxonomic infrastructure that marks a defining example of the alliance approach.

BiCIKL (Biodiversity Community Integrated Knowledge Library) is a Horizon Europe-funded project involving several other long-time European participants and publishers charged with developing bidirectional links between data infrastructures for specimens, genomics,, taxonomy and data in publications. The alliance has provided an important framework for understanding current and potential links between the partners’ infrastructures and others, both within Europe and beyond, as we begin to integrate across biodiversity-related infrastructures for maximum effect.

Both of these efforts extend the alliance’s 2021 activities, which focused on a pair of consultations around the Digital Extended Specimen (DES) and led by the Distributed System of Scientific Collections in Europe and the U.S.-based Biodiversity Collections Network (BCoN). This effort—and the robust discussion it generated on the GBIF community forum—have led to two manuscript describing progress and laying out a shared road map. The group will reconvene in May with the intent of organizing a steering committee to guide further engagement and expansion.

Pronghorn (Antilicopra americana) in the Pinedale Anticline natural gas field, Wyoming. Photo 2008 USFWS Mountain-Prairie Region, licensed under CC BY 2.0.


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