The importance of biodiversity e-infrastructures for megadiverse countries

  • Canhos D
  • Sousa-Baena M
  • de Souza S
 et al. 
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Addressing the challenges of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development requires global cooperation, support structures, and new governance models to integrate diverse initiatives and achieve massive, open exchange of data, tools, and technology. The traditional paradigm of sharing scientific knowledge through publications is not sufficient to meet contemporary demands that require not only the results but also data, knowledge, and skills to analyze the data. E-infrastructures are key in facilitating access to data and providing the framework for collaboration. Here we discuss the importance of e-infrastructures of public interest and the lack of long-term funding policies. We present the example of Brazil's speciesLink network, an e-infrastructure that provides free and open access to biodiversity primary data and associated tools. SpeciesLink currently integrates 382 datasets from 135 national institutions and 13 institutions from abroad, openly sharing ~7.4 million records, 94% of which are associated to voucher specimens. Just as important as the data is the network of data providers and users. In 2014, more than 95% of its users were from Brazil, demonstrating the importance of local e-infrastructures in enabling and promoting local use of biodiversity data and knowledge. From the outset, speciesLink has been sustained through project-based funding, normally public grants for 2-4-year periods. In between projects, there are short-term crises in trying to keep the system operational, a fact that has also been observed in global biodiversity portals, as well as in social and physical sciences platforms and even in computing services portals. In the last decade, the open access movement propelled the development of many web platforms for sharing data. Adequate policies unfortunately did not follow the same tempo, and now many initiatives may perish.

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