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Bouchout Declaration: FAQs

Who are the final recipients of the Declaration?

Together, the signatories will influence funding agencies, institutions, libraries, museums, herbaria, individuals, publishers (inter alia) with their demand for an evolution of practices that will ensure that we have open access to data.

How will the Bouchout Declaration be used?

The Bouchout Declaration is part of process that promotes the perspective that  that open access to content and its improved discoverability will lead to an integrated and comprehensive network of biodiversity services that will define this science in the future. This change will improve the discipline  because the technology will accelerate progress; science will become more cost-effective; access to more content will ensure that new statements are more authoritative; because the community of users will be able to comment on the content and so will correct any errors or fill in gaps to achieve a mechanism of continuous quality control that was previously unavailable; because they will have access to greater quantities of content than were previously available and so they can address problems that require approaches on grand scales; the big data pool offers opportunities for new types of research, and provides inquisitive and creative minds with new opportunities to be inventive.

What does an institution commit to when it signs?

There are no requirements for signing up. A signature is first and foremost a statement of support for open data . Each signatory can determine how best to make progress towards the goal. Some recommendations are included in the declaration. We hope that signatories will become early adopters of the open access approach, that they will promote change in their institutions, societies and journals, and will position themselves and their institutions as leaders

What are the benefits of signing this Declaration?

The signatories together state that they seek change in the way biodiversity sciences are done if we are to achieve the 'Big New Biology' distinguished by open content and increasingly sophisticated data management and analysis tools. They believe that if more information is made openly available, they will benefit because research will proceed more quickly; the quality of work will be enhanced; new styles of research will become possible, and the people who create the data will get more recognition. As the number of signatories grows, it will promote dialogue, overcome ambivalence and uncertainty, bring about more participation, and promote change. In essence, it is part of managed social change that will add a new array of opportunities for research and will increase the visibility and relevance of active biodiversity scientists.

Does the protection of personal sensitive data interfere with Open Access?

The Institutions that support the Bouchout Declaration deal with scientific data linked to biodiversity and not with personal records of any kind. Images are taken to illustrate the habitat, features or traits of a particular taxon. The rare cases where people are included who are not related to the research topic are a quantité négligible and thus concerns about sensitive personal data are of marginal relevance in this context.

Should the Declaration be more inclusive?

The Declaration is one of the outcomes of the EU-funded pro-iBiosphere project that was tasked to prepare a blueprint of an Open Biodiversity Knowledge Management System (OBKMS). This blueprint includes a description of what is needed to implement and maintain the OBKMS, such as infrastructure, human resources, or business plans. The Declaration is a conclusion from the many discussions in the pro-iBiosphere project and with the stakeholders of OBKMS. It identifies a majority view of an action that we as a community can take now to enable sharing our data. It takes into consideration advances in technology and shows our commitment to make our data available well beyond our own domain. The level of support for Open Access has defined the scope of the Declaration. The discussion and the pro-iBiosphere project identified many other issues, and these will be addressed later as our community embraces Open Biodiversity Knowledge Management and as funds are obtained for its implementation.

Isn’t the Bouchout Declaration too vague?

The Bouchout Declaration emphasizes what we would like to achieve, but does not deal with the particular path or changes that will take us there. Those aspects are the responsibility of the individuals, organizations and initiatives that sign the declaration. That said, the Declaration does identify a number of aspects that will need our attention - such as identifiers and improved discoverability of content.

How can I sign the Declaration?

You can sign the declaration by sending us an email to

What is the difference between GBIF and what the Bouchout Declaration wants to achieve?

GBIF is an organization that aggregates data about all types of life on Earth from many sources. GBIF makes the information openly available according to common standards. The Bouchout Declaration is a statement by the community to support the principle of Open Access. The signatories to the Bouchout Declaration share with GBIF the principles of Open Access. One goal of the Bouchout Declaration is for institutions to use persistent identifiers for data objects and physical objects such as specimens, images and taxonomic treatments; and to combine them with standard mechanisms to take users directly to content and data, to link data using agreed vocabularies, and to register the content and services to allow discovery, access and use of data.

As the principles of the Bouchout Declaration are more widely adopted, it will increase the amount and types of content that GBIF can access, such as the original record, images, or other digital objects. The use of persistent standard identifiers will help publications link to cited objects such as specimens, observation records, treatments or multimedia.

Ideally, the signatory institutions provide their data through their national GBIF nodes, register their collection using the GBIF data publishing facilities, or publish data sets in the Biodiversity Data Journal which submits datasets automatically to GBIF.

What is the difference between the Bouchout Declaration and the Berlin Declaration?

The Bouchout Declaration specifically deals with biodiversity data. It was inspired by the Berlin Declaration. It draws attention to two issues that impede Open Biodiversity Knowledge Management - the need for data to be openly accessible, and the need for the data to be discoverable.

What is Plazi?

Plazi is a Swiss-based association with the mission of improving Open Access to scientific results. Plazi maintains the Bouchout Declaration Web Site. Together with Pensoft, Plazi led the development of the Bouchout Declaration. Plazi is a consortium member of the EU-FP7 funded pro-iBiosphere project and task leader for the task “Coordination and routes for cooperation across organizations, projects and e-infrastructures”. It was in this context that the Declaration originally was conceived.

Do we need Creative Commons licenses in science?

One of the benefits of the Bouchout Declaration process is that it improves understanding copyright and Intellectual Property law to make it clear what is legally protected and what is not. The Bouchout Declaration does not aim to apply law where it may not be appropriate or where it is not needed as much of scientific data are not copyrightable—for example, see the Blue List. For content clearly in the Public Domain, no permission should be needed nor implied, though applying the Public Domain Mark may provide clarity to global audience. For biodiversity content that is not copyrightable or protected by database rights, we recommend marking it with CC0 Public Domain Dedication to clearly indicate its unencumbered status. For content that qualifies as a work in the legal sense, we recommend applying either CC0 or CC BY 4.0 license as both instruments cover copyright as well as database rights, if applicable, and provide the greatest possible freedom to reuse the content.

How does the Declaration deal with indigenous knowledge?

The Bouchout Declaration deals with data and information on biodiversity that has been and is being collected in a scientific or applied (e.g. forestry, agriculture) context. Unless there are compelling reasons, such as sensitive data, the signatories support to make all content open access. Indigenous knowledge overlaps with scientific knowledge but at the same time is its own domain with distinctive traditions and properties. The  Bouchout Declaration encourages that all data on biodiversity should be open access but it also recognizes that non-scientific domains have their own character, and wishes to promote dialogue between all parties, and ensure that data are available for all to use. We refer scientists to the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing that requires parties “to take measures to ensure… prior informed consent (from indigenous and local communities)”.