ESA 2019 Biodiversity Data Dialogues

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Biodiversity Data Dialogues

Ecologists are increasingly using large data sets to address current and looming environmental issues, but recent papers call for new tools and methods as well as cross-discipline collaborations to ensure that ecological researchers get the information they need now and in the future. By looking at funding trends, journals, publications, and researcher interest, it is clear that the ecological research community is rapidly developing new methods to access and use large data sets. In this special session, NEON (National Ecological Observatory Network), iDigBio (Integrated Digitized Biocollections), and GBIF (Global Biodiversity Information Facility), all supported by the National Science Foundation, invite you to join an interactive dialogue on four key data topics, including data transparency, data integration, data archival policies, and data citation policies. Molecular biologists use Genbank, BOLD and other data tools; and biodiversity collections, museum, and citizen science biodiversity data are accessible through GBIF. And ecology is moving rapidly toward higher data transparency and data integration. Concurrently, ecology journals are developing data archival and data citation policies. This highly interactive session offers a unique opportunity to bring innovative thought and forward-thinking discussions and discourse on these four hot data topics introduced by domain experts and discussed via thematic panels. Whatever the size of your ecological project - share your valuable perspectives with us and learn from colleagues in the field.

GBIF, iDigBio, and NEON bring you this collaborative discussion at the Ecological Society of American Meeting 2019 in Louisville, KY on August 12th.

Over 75 people joined us for this interactive discussion session.


All presentations compiled here in one Biodiversity Data Dialogues presentation (pptx). Note file is large (40 MB)


  1. Start of the session and welcome - Dmitry Schigel, GBIF Secretariat
  2. Open data: opportunities for collaborative research - Christine Laney, NEON
  3. Data citation, attribution & discoverability - Kyle Copas, GBIF Secretariat
  4. Publishing Biodiversity Data - Deb Paul
  5. Using botanical collections to find uncommon species and spark new research hypotheses - Christina Alba, iDigBio / Denver Botanical Gardens

Questions Asked

In this interactive session, the presenters and audience asked questions. What follows is a compilation of these.

  • How many published data in an open fashion?
    • Most of the people in the room
  • How many felt comfortable with the process?
    • Half of the room
  • How many have heard of FAIR?
    • About ⅓ of the room

What other words do you think of when you hear Findable?

    • DOI
    • Internet
    • Licensing
    • Metadata
    • Standards
    • Public access
    • No paywall
    • Permanent
  • How many people have ORCIDs?
    • Most of the room
  • How many people have heard of iDigBio? ⅓ of the room
  • How many have had to aggregate disparate datasets? ¼ of the room
  • How would you do it differently?
    • Ask all the contributors to use the same template ahead of time
  • How may have heard of DarwinCore, EML? ~10+ people
  • How many are actively sharing data? Any comments on that?
    • Denver Botanic Gardens have hired a person to do this - helps decrease latency significantly
    • Takes a lot of time - georeferencing standardization very challenging
  • What do you do before working with synthetic datasets?
    • Placeholders in data - NAs vs zeroes
    • Geocoordinate QC
    • Outlier detection
  • How many are familiar with the rank abundance distribution?
    • ¼ of the room
  • Who is familiar with SEINet?
    • Only a handful

Questions from the audience

  • Communicating back to the creators of the datasets - what are concrete ways that this is happening so people can do this, or is it just a goal?
  • Failure to understand that taxonomic names need to include the authority (e.g. the taxon concept) - data providers do not do this - what source are each data providers using?
  • I use GBIF a lot for my research. Put in request for all the mammals in N. Amer. - too big. Went to R to make it more manageable to pull in records one species at a time, but ended up with so many of DOIs. What is the right doi to use?
  • What is the vision for managing errors in GBIF data? And what do you do with DOIs?
  • What efforts are being done to fill in the gaps for global biodiversity given that tropical systems are not well known?
  • What are your organizations doing to advocate with different journals to use the DOIs (e.g., limitations on number of citations)?
  • More of a comment: Statistical issues around rare species - biases the science we can do