Data papers

Map excerpt from data paper "GPS tracking data of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls breeding at the southern North Sea coast" by Stienen et al published 2016 in Zookeys.

What is a data paper?

A data paper is a peer reviewed document describing a dataset, published in a peer reviewed journal. It takes effort to prepare, curate and describe data. Data papers provide recognition for this effort by means of a scholarly article.

Data papers explained

A data paper is a searchable metadata document, describing a particular dataset or a group of datasets, published in the form of a peer-reviewed article in a scholarly journal.

Unlike a conventional research article, the primary purpose of a data paper is to describe data and the circumstances of their collection, rather than to report hypotheses and conclusions.

GBIF has been working with partners in academic publishing to promote the data paper as a means of bringing credit and recognition to all those involved in data publication; to alert the scientific community to the existence of biodiversity datasets and the value they can bring to particular research projects; and as a mechanism for quality assessment and control of data accessible through GBIF and other networks.

Why publish data papers?

Authoring clear, informative metadata is an essential step if biodiversity data are going to be discovered and used to inform research and decisions. This involves extra work, and data publishers need incentives to do it. In the absence of such incentives, too many datasets are published with poorly-documented metadata or, worse still, no metadata at all.

Data papers help to overcome barriers to authoring of metadata by providing clear acknowledgement of all those involved in the collection, management, curation and publishing of biodiversity data.

By publishing a data paper, you will:

  • Receive credit through indexing and citation of the published paper, in the same way as with any conventional scholarly publication, offering benefits to authors in terms of recognition and career building
  • Increase the visibility, usability and credibility of the data resources you publish
  • Track more effectively the usage and citations of the data you publish.

Data paper tools

GBIF Integrated Publishing Toolkit (IPT)

GBIF has worked with Pensoft Publishers to develop a workflow for generating a data paper manuscript using the GBIF Metadata Profile, provided as part of the Integrated Publishing Toolkit (IPT). At a click of a button you can download the metadata as an RTF-formatted manuscript ready for editing and submission for peer review following the normal procedures of any journal accepting this kind of publication (see table below).


This tool created by SiBBr extracts metadata from a Darwin Core Archive (DwC-A), and creates a manuscript in RTF format ready for editing and submission.

arpha Writing Tool

The arpha Writing Tool further simplifies the process of publishing a data papers. Metadata from a dataset can be uploaded, and the entire process from collaborative writing, commenting, and editing, over submission and peer review, to publication and post-publication revising is handled in one web-based tool. Detailed instructions on importing metadate from IPT-hosted datasets are available.

The arpha Writing Tool currently supports direct submission to Biodiversity Data Journal.

Most recent papers describing data published in the GBIF network

Rodeles AA, Galicia D and Miranda R (2016) Iberian fish records in the vertebrate collection of the Museum of Zoology of the University of Navarra. Scientific Data. Springer Nature, 160091. Available at doi:10.1038/sdata.2016.91.

Escribano N, Galicia D, Ariño AH and Escala C (2016) Long-term data set of small mammals from owl pellets in the Atlantic-Mediterranean transition area. Scientific Data. Springer Nature, 160085. Available at doi:10.1038/sdata.2016.85.

Morrison K, Roxburgh L, Smith T, Page-Nicholson S, Gibbons B, Jones MG, van Niekerk M, Botha B, Oliver K and McCann K (2016) The African Crane Database (1978-2014): Records of three threatened crane species (Family: Gruidae) from southern and eastern Africa. Biodiversity Data Journal. Pensoft Publishers, e9794. Available at doi:10.3897/BDJ.4.e9794

Journals that publish biodiversity-related data papers

Please notify us at with corrections or updates.

Journal Publisher Open Access APC estimate Impact factor
Biodiversity Data Journal Pensoft Yes €300 -
BioInvasions Records REABIC Journals Yes €600 -
BioRisk Pensoft Yes €300 -
Biota Colombiana Humboldt Institute, Colombia Yes €0 -
BMC Ecology Biomed Central Yes €1,745 2.724
BMC Plant Biology Biomed Central Yes €1,745 3.631
Botanical Studies SpringerOpen Yes €600 1.159
Check List Biotaxa Yes €27 -
China Scientific Data Chinese Academy of Sciences Yes €458 -
Data in Brief Elsevier Yes €458 -
Data MDPI Open Access Journals Yes €0 -
Dataset Papers in Science Hindawi Yes €458 -
Earth Perspectives SpringerOpen Yes €1,100 -
Earth System Science Data Copernicus GmbH Yes €0 8.286
F1000 Research F1000 Research Ltd Yes €917 -
Geoscience Data Journal Wiley (on behalf of RMetS) Yes €1,200 1.562
GigaScience Biomed Central Yes €1,670 7.463
MycoKeys Pensoft Yes €550 1.846
Nature Conservation Pensoft Yes €550 1.120
NeoBiota Pensoft Yes €550 -
PhytoKeys Pensoft Yes €550 0.990
PLOS ONE Plos Yes €1,370 3.057
Scientific Data Nature Publishing Group Yes €1,050 -
ZooKeys Pensoft Yes €550 0.938
Global Ecology and Biogeography Wiley Optional €1,530 5.840
Ecological Archives Ecological Society of America No €229 -

* estimate in Euros based on 5,000 words or 15 pages