Bouchout Declaration: Background

Biology must manage and take advantage of the rapid increase in the quantity of data available to science because of new instruments, monitoring programs, or mandates from funding agencies. The internet increasingly acts as a large pool of data. With new tools to organise, analyse, and visualise content, scientists can move more quickly than before, set higher standards, address problems of a grander scale, or spark new styles of research. These improvements will increase the visibility of the biodiversity scientists and make what we do more relevant.

The recent description of Crassignatha danaugirangensis in Pensoft’s Biodiversity Data Journal demonstrates that Open Biodiversity Knowledge Management (OBKM) accelerates the speed with which we can do our work. This species of spider was discovered, researched, described, published, and data shared with GBIF and EOL within 30 days. A remarkable achievement.

The big data world will lead to better quality research because scientists will have access to more information, because they will be openly able to comment on or enhance data, allowing questionable content to be corrected. Those who improve the quality of data are expected to gain credit for their efforts when the information is re-used.

A driving vision for the future is that all information ever assembled and published, whether in publications, as specimens (now digital) from museums, herbaria and other collections will be openly available via the internet. Scientists, institutions, and agencies have begun the process of digitizing content, changing data management practices, and building the infrastructure that will allow for greater collaboration and bring about the big data world.

The pro-iBiosphere project (www.pro-ibiosphere.eu) was funded by the European Union’s Seventh Programme for research, technological development and demonstration (grant agreement No 312848) to evaluate the changes that will be required to achieve an ‘Open Biodiversity Knowledge Management System’. One of the important requirements is to ensure that data are openly and freely available, not hidden and so not discoverable, nor tucked behind claims of copyright or data user agreements that will require negotiation before the content can be used and so impede progress. The importance of open access underpins the Budapest Open Access Initiative (www.budapestopenaccessinitiative.org) and the Berlin Declaration (openaccess.mpg.de).

The Bouchout Declaration is an opportunity for those organizations, initiatives and individuals who create, manage and use biodiversity information, and who believe in the opportunities and potential of the big data world, to declare their support of the Open Access agenda. By endorsing the principles of Open Access and discoverability of data, the signatories strengthen the arguments that will be put to governments and funding bodies, and will accelerate the maturation and evolution of Open Biodiversity Knowledge Management, making biodiversity sciences more relevant, innovative, and responsive to societal needs.

An introductory lecture is available here.