A Global Deal For Nature: Guiding principles, milestones, and targets

The policy paper “A Global Deal For Nature: Guiding principles, milestones, and targets” has just appeared in Science Advances https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aaw2869

It’s an interesting piece, but it’s striking that GBIF isn’t mentioned anywhere. Anecdotally this seems a common occurrence - major policy papers in high impact journals ignore or are unaware of GBIF. For an international effort funded by governments this seems unfortunate.

Perhaps a counter argument is that while GBIF itself isn’t mentioned, perhaps it is there indirectly if the science cited in the paper is based on GBIF data. It would be interesting to check the DOIs of the cited papers to see if this is the case.

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As a follow up, I’ve been discussing this paper on Twitter, e.g. https://twitter.com/rdmpage/status/1119520013487169536

In the supplementary information there is the following statement:

As promising as these approaches are, a policy challenge is emerging. How should national and international organizations work to ensure that the proliferation of monitoring systems, sensors, and platforms becomes more than just a more accurate approach to measuring the state of the Earth’s biota, and move towards guiding global and local responses more readily? We recommend that, as part of the GDN, the CBD uses applications such as those listed above to create a rapid ‘Earth Pulse’ response mechanism to provide timely alerts to signatory nations on the environmental changes (positive and negative) which have been detected within their borders. Continuous information sharing would allow for more immediate policy interventions or mitigations.

Such an effort would likely require significant assistance from the technology sector, which has already established promising early mechanisms to support such an engagement. Microsoft, Intel, Google, IBM, Planet, Arrow Electronics, Inmarsat, and many others in the private sector have existing work streams dedicated to deploying technology in the pursuit of positive environmental impact. Combining these initiatives with a small team of international scientists dedicated to providing a weekly alert report for the CBD would help accelerate the impact of the aspirations of the technology sector. The estimated cost for supporting the core components of an Earth Pulse system would likely run to the order of $5-10 million/year. The cost of on-the-ground mitigations and interventions is harder to calculate but should be an active line of pursuit for environmental economists and ecologists under the auspices of a GDN.

So, the authors are proposing a GBIF-like infrastructure to monitor biodiversity change. Is it just me, or is this not something of an existential threat to GBIF? Governments currently pay (reluctantly, in many cases) for GBIF infrastructure to mobilise primary biodiversity data. I suspect what they want (and were originally promised) was something much more like “Earth Pulse”, an infrastructure to quantify biodiversity and monitor change. If Earth Pulse exists, why would you fund GBIF?

Would it not make sense to consider whether GBIF could deliver some (or all?) of the kinds of things an Earth Pulse might include, which means GBIF moves into the area of providing syntheses of biodiversity knowledge that are actually usable and could support a “biodiversity dashboard”.

Long term, I’ve always wondered whether the fundamental idea behind GBIF - namely that access to primary biodiversity data is crucial to understanding and monitoring biodiversity - is something of an reassuring assumption rather than reality. The number of times major papers on biodiversity appear that don’t cite or mention GBIF suggests maybe GBIF’s role deserves to be rethought.

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A quick response to this before delving in too deeply. One of the key sources cited in the paper, Smith et al ‘A global test of ecoregions’ Nat. Ecol. Evol. 2, 1889–1896 (2018) https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-018-0709-x , is fully dependent on data accessed via GBIF and cited in the original paper- amounting to some 200m records of ca. 8300 species. It is certainly worth a further check for additional dependencies in the Science Advances paper (which we will do). The point is well made that such connections tend to get lost when papers cite papers that use data through GBIF, and it is an issue we are well aware of and working on precisely so that the value proposition for GBIF is made as strongly as possible to our funders and stakeholders. Other points regarding e.g. synthesis views are also well made and worthy of more considered response.


Hi @Timhirsch,

I wonder if something like “The Pagerank-Index: Going beyond Citation Counts in Quantifying Scientific Impact of Researchers” https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0134794 would be a way to measure impact. Page rank gives you a way to measure the impact of a work by tracking not only citations but (implicitly) citations of citations. Of course, this requires a more work than simple citation count, but instead calculations on a citation graph. However, such graphs are emerging, e.g. through CrossRef and Wikidata. I could imagine a measure eiof impact rather than citation count may be useful to GBIF funders.

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