The NBN Trust also has an important global role as it is the UK node for GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.

GBIF facilitates the sharing of biodiversity data and information on a global scale, similar to the work of the NBN Trust within the UK.


The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) arose from a recommendation in 1999 by the Biodiversity Informatics Subgroup of the Megascience Forum, set up by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The panel’s report concluded: “An international mechanism is needed to make biodiversity data and information accessible worldwide.” It argued that such a mechanism would produce many economic and social benefits, enabling sustainable development through provision of sound scientific information.

Specifically, the OECD panel 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 a Memorandum of Understanding between participating governments. In 2004 a prototype data portal was launched and this was followed in 2007 with the launch of the global data portal. Most recently, in 2013 a new combined data and communication portal launched with major enhancements including unlimited data downloads and real-time indexing of published datasets.

The NBN Trust’s role in GBIF

In Autumn 2003 the NBN Trust took on a global role as the UK node for GBIF and in September 2004 the NBN Gateway began to make data available through the portal, meaning that the NBN Trust would be able to play its part on the international stage.

One of the major benefits of NBN Trust participation in GBIF has always been that UK records can be seen alongside data from other countries, putting them into a broader geographical context. In addition, GBIF serves as a valuable forum for discussing issues concerning biodiversity data exchange with colleagues from around the world. GBIF also develops computer software that is freely available to everyone. Indeed the NBN Trust used the GBIF data testing framework as the basis for its data validation software, NBN Record Cleaner.

When the global data portal was released in 2007, the NBN Trust supplied data which was publicly available to download from the NBN Gateway to GBIF. This amounted to approximately 15 million records out of the 27 million that were then available on the NBN Gateway. Today, GBIF maintains an index of 478 datasets published through the NBN, with a total of 37.7 million records, all of which are georeferenced.

As well as acting as an important data node, the NBN Trust has also contributed to GBIF in other ways. For example, NBN Trust staff helped with the development of guidance for dealing with potentially sensitive records and the NBN Trust technical team, alongside colleagues from other countries, worked closely with GBIF on both the design and testing of the portal.

You can download the GBIF Country report for the UK for more information.

Sharing data with GBIF

With the permission of the individual data partners, we share NBN Atlas datasets with GBIF.

The benefit of sharing data with GBIF is that it vastly increases the number of people who will find and possibly use the data. GBIF assigns each dataset a DOI (Digital Object Identifier), which is a unique identifier for the dataset. When datasets are cited in publications, GBIF stores the citation against the DOI and passes this information back to the NBN Atlas. Citations for a dataset are listed on the dataset page.

Citations are a valuable way of demonstrating the importance of sharing biodiversity data. We encourage all data partners to allow us to share their data with GBIF. If anyone is unsure whether their data is being shared or would like to share their data with GBIF, please email


As well as the records made available through GBIF, the NBN Atlas is also used in a European context to deliver Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe (INSPIRE) compliant data. The INSPIRE Directive aims to make it easier to access and combine environmental spatial datasets held by public authorities, to support environmental policy and practice at a national and international level. It recommends the publication of species data via the NBN Atlas as a sustainable and cost-effective way of complying with the INSPIRE Regulations on Annex III species data.