Content Needs Assessment Task Group for GBIF

A content needs assessment survey to explore major user needs regarding biodiversity data: the Content Needs Assessment Task Group for GBIF.

Biodiversity is the variety of life, extending from the level of genes, to species, to ecosystems. The extent of the biodiversity crisis – the potential loss of much of this living variation – was highlighted again recently by the Third Global Biodiversity Outlook (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity 2010). It documented a decline in biodiversity, and an increase over the past 30 years in the pressures that cause biodiversity loss (Butchart et al. 2010).

Effective strategies for addressing biodiversity loss, and for progressing biodiversity science, require that biodiversity-relevant information is made available in a useful form. Further, biodiversity data (data relevant to variation at the genes, species, phylogenetic, and ecosystems levels) will be of limited use on their own. Such data must be integrated at various spatial scales, not only with other environmental data, but also with a wide variety of types of socio-economic data, in order to address the most pressing questions in biodiversity and sustainability science.

The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) established the Content Needs Assessment Task Group (CNA TG; co-lead by DP Faith (Australian Museum) & B Collen, and involving GBIF senior programme officer: Vishwas Chavan). Our Task Group’s goal was to investigate user needs regarding biodiversity data and identify major areas of opportunity to mobilize data in a way that better considers users’ needs.
CNA TG was mandated to provide recommendations to GBIF that would
(a) determine the priority questions that GBIF mobilised data should be able to address for various areas of science and policy in the near, medium, and long-term, from local to global level including thematic areas,
(b) evaluate the content needs (volume, depth, and density) and data fitness-for-use (precision, accuracy, authenticity) for specific uses linked to the identified priority questions,
(c) assess what unique scientific and policy contributions of GBIF mobilised data that cannot be met easily through other mechanisms,
(d) identify gaps in accessible data mapped against data needs, and
(e) recommend strategies and priorities for data discovery and publishing through GBIF network.

The survey appeared in six languages (English, Spanish, French, Chinese, and Russian) and consisted of 21 questions covering (a) respondent profile, (b) uses of primary biodiversity data, (c) access to primary biodiversity data, (d) data quality and quantity requirements, (e) species level data requirements, and (f) usefulness of GBIF mobilised data. SurveyMonkey ( was used to administer the survey and retrieve responses. The survey was widely circulated using biodiversity-related lists and portals.

The survey resulted in responses from more than 700 individuals, providing more than 48,000 individual answers and nearly four-thousand individual verbatim comments. The resulting coded database was cross-tabulated and analyzed variously for frequencies, correlations, and statistically summarized over several dimensions to produce frequency tables, plots, maps and summaries that helped discover trends and steer our discussions.


Further background and results can be found here:

Faith, Daniel P, Ben Collen, Arturo H. Ariñno, Patricia Koleff, John Guinotte, Jeremy Kerr and Vishwas Chavan (in press) Bridging the biodiversity data gaps: Recommendations to meet the users’ data needs. Biodiversity Informatics.

Ariño, Arturo H., Vishwas Chavan, Daniel P. Faith (in press) Assessment of user needs of primary biodiversity data: Analysis, Concerns, and Challenges. Biodiversity Informatics


Dr Dan Faith , Principal Research Scientist
Last Updated: