Contributing to OBIS

Last updated on Wed, 2013-07-24 03:25. Originally submitted by julio on 2010-05-21 19:05.

Any organization, consortium, project or individual may contribute to OBIS.

There are two models for sharing data through the OBIS system:

  • You can become a distributed data contributor. This means that you keep your dataset locally, and set up a server that can respond to OBIS queries. This requires "mapping" your dataset to the OBIS schema (which is not as hard as it sounds!) and installing a free software package called DiGIR to communicate with the portal. A benefit of becoming a distributed data contributor: the contributor can add data and make corrections directly.
  • You can provide your data set in electronic form to a Regional OBIS Node, the central data portal, or another existing Data Provider, and it is published from there. In order to enhance standardisation, there is an Excel spreadsheet avalable for download from here, which mimics the structure of the data format. The spreadsheet is self-explanatory (we hope), but do not hesitate to contact us for more help. Also look below (section on data schema) for more information on the different fields.

The optimal model for sharing data for a prospective provider depends on whether or not the group/individual is interested in maintaining their own server and whether or not they expect to be making regular updates to the data set.

OBIS prefers groups to be distributed data contributors, because we think it is best for the data contributor, who knows the dataset best, to maintain it. But if you cannot or do not wish to set up a server, OBIS is happy to host data. In either case the data will be credited to you.

Guidelines for Contribution

Publishing Sensitive Data

OBIS is committed to keeping its data free and openly accessible for the public. So, if you have sensitive data you probably don't want to publish it through OBIS (or any other publication). However, there are some particular concerns we may be able to help with.

  • If you are concerned about giving the precise location of a rare or commercial species, then we may be able to represent your data at a lower spatial resolution, or to give a bounding box instead of a point location.
  • If you have data that you would like to publish but want to wait until its analysis is published elsewhere, we can help you set up your dataset appropriately now, but agree not to publish it for a certain amount of time.


OBIS does not buy data. It is a group of contributors who have agreed to publish their data through a central portal to make it more accessible. However, we may be able to make suggestions for places where you could submit a proposal to fund developing datasets or for digitizing existing datasets.

Intellectual Property Rights

OBIS does not claim ownership or rights to the data sets it publishes. All rights remain with the data source, whether distributed directly or mediated, whom may at any time decide to remove their data from OBIS.

Citation and Credit

All data published through OBIS are labelled with the organization and database from which the data came, and a standard citation is provided.

Users are expected to cite the data providers when using data from OBIS as they would cite papers from a conventional print publication.

If you would like to contribute to the OBIS system, please contact us by email at

We will then help you plan the technical aspects of connecting to the OBIS website.

OBIS is a project of:
IODE Sponsored by:
Martin International and Les Grands Explorateurs
With in-kind support from:
Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab, Duke University
Universidad Simón Bolívar Flanders Marine Institute

OBIS strives to document the ocean's diversity, distribution and abundance of life. Created by the Census of Marine Life, OBIS is now part of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO, under its International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE) programme.