Data Policy


As UNEP’s specialist centre for biodiversity information and assessment, UNEP-WCMC is responsible for:

a)Creating the collaborative relationships needed to acquire and develop biodiversity data1.
b)Ensuring high standards of maintenance, validation, dissemination and review/purging of biodiversity data holdings in its custody.
c)Establishing rights of ownership and use of each dataset and putting in place the necessary permissions and appropriate conditions for the use of these datasets by third parties.
d)Producing data management plans that are realistic, incorporating adequate IT investment.
e)Promoting the use of biodiversity data holdings by devising and promulgating catalogues and directories and encouraging the development of data standards.
f)Exchanging data where the result will lead to a contribution to knowledge within UNEP’s remit, or to benefits in kind.
g)Arranging licences to control the release of datasets, the uses to which the datasets may be put, and their further dissemination; and to protect UNEP and data providers from legal liability.
h)Monitoring the uses being made of the data and data products.
i)Representing UNEP on matters concerning biodiversity data.
j)Securing the funding necessary to facilitate the above.

This policy provides guidance to UNEP-WCMC in fulfilling these responsibilities.

Data Acquisition and Development

1. Harmonization of data standards and sharing policies
UNEP-WCMC will participate in and promote efforts to harmonize data standards and share policies across the biodiversity sector.

2. Fair and equitable
The collaborative arrangements that UNEP-WCMC makes with national, regional and international data providers and partners in the development of new biodiversity datasets will always seek to be transparent, fair and equitable.

3. Ownership and IP
UNEP-WCMC shall not assert any intellectual property rights in the data made available to it by data providers. Wherever possible UNEP-WCMC will record the ‘ownership’ and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) associated with each of the biodiversity data sets it holds or draws upon and will ensure the necessary permissions are in place for its use. Where ownership and IPR are unclear, UNEP-WCMC will make fair and equitable arrangements with key stakeholders to facilitate its deployment to the benefit of conservation.

4. Recognition of data contributors
UNEP-WCMC will take stringent measures to ensure that contributors of data shall be correctly attributed and the integrity of their contribution preserved. Data providers will normally include stable and unique identifiers in the data they provide so that the owner of the data is known and for other necessary purposes.

5. Traditional knowledge and indigenous rights
UNEP-WCMC will respect and will not without permission share traditional knowledge and data regarding the land rights of indigenous peoples unless such data, information and knowledge is provided with prior, informed consent and/or is already in the public domain.

6. Obligations of Data Providers
Data providers will warrant that they have made the necessary arrangements with the original owners of the data that it makes available through UNEP-WCMC and shall make reasonable efforts to ensure the data they provide are accurate.

Data Management

7. Management Plan
UNEP-WCMC will draw up and implement a comprehensive biodiversity data management plan that includes adequate and continuing precautions to safeguard and back-up materials in its custody.

8. Quality Assurance
UNEP-WCMC will take stringent measures to ensure all its data holdings are adequately documented, include appropriate metadata and are subject to quality control procedures.

9. Sensitive data
Making biodiversity data available should help safeguard biodiversity; access to data will be restricted where the release of sensitive data might have the opposite effect. All data restricted as being sensitive will include a date for review of their sensitivity status, along with documented reasons for that status.

10. Restricted data
Responsibility regarding the restriction of access to sensitive areas resides with the data provider. Where data providers have specified restrictions on the use of particular data or datasets, this will be clearly recorded in the metadata, and this information used in ensuring that the restrictions are effectively implemented when making data available to third parties.

11. On-line access
To improve access to its data holdings UNEP-WCMC will make all the biodiversity data it is able to release according to this policy available to view and download on-line, together with such terms and conditions of use as may apply. UNEP-WCMC will also make data available as an OGC compliant and ArcGIS Server web service if technical capacity allows.

12. Catalogue
It is self-evident that datasets can only be fully exploited if potential users are aware of their existence and UNEP-WCMC will prepare and publish a catalogue of its data holdings every year, advertise its data holdings, and include metadata in appropriate metadata catalogues.

13. Metrics and regular reporting
UNEP-WCMC will prepare metrics for the quality and completeness of the data it holds as well as the use made of it and will produce regular reports based on these.

14. Sustainability
UNEP-WCMC's business model will support the development, acquisition, maintenance and release of the biodiversity data it holds. It will also investigate the development of methodologies such as expert ‘wiki’ systems that allow data to be contributed and managed on-line to decrease the development, maintenance and distribution costs of biodiversity datasets.

Data Release and Use

15. Take-down Policy
UNEP-WCMC will operate a ‘take-down’ policy such that in the event of any reasonable claim of a potential breach of copyright, or other reasonable notice of a possible violation of rights or rules, especially from data partners and providers, regarding the content of an online service the contested item will be removed from the service as quickly as possible pending further investigation.

16. Non-commercial use
In compliance with UNEP policy, and where doing so will not violate restrictions imposed by data providers, UNEP-WCMC will permit use of its biodiversity data for a non-commercial purpose2 in a timely manner with a minimum of restrictions.

17. Minimum restrictions
The following minimum restrictions will normally apply for access to data held by UNEP-WCMC: a) users will comply in good faith with any terms of uses specified by data providers in the metadata; b) users will recognise the origin of the data with an appropriate citation; c) users will not pass data to others without permission; d) users will be required to use the most recent data release; e) the purpose of use will be recorded and communicated to UNEP-WCMC for its annual reporting; f) neither UNEP nor data providers will bear any liability; g) users will agree to provide feedback on the material to which they have been given access and to contribute any data they hold which might improve its quality.

18. Repatriation and subsidy to developing countries
UNEP-WCMC recognises and appreciates the in-kind contributions made to biodiversity data holdings by developing countries and will prioritise the repatriation of biodiversity data. UNEP-WCMC will subsidize the costs of preparation and delivery of data repatriated or otherwise supplied to developing country users unless the purpose is commercial.

19. Preparation and delivery costs
UNEP-WCMC will make biodiversity data freely available for non-commercial purposes, but charges may be raised to users in ‘developed’ countries in order to recover costs associated with preparation and delivery where these are significant.

20. Commercial use
Permission for the commercial use of biodiversity data will not be unreasonably withheld where such use may have conservation as well as commercial value and where its release will not violate restrictions imposed by data providers. Where there is no clear conservation value data will be made available under specific licence and UNEP-WCMC may seek a proportionate contribution to the compilation and maintenance of the underlying data services, or the establishment of a data-sharing agreement, or negotiate a royalty agreement with any revenues used to improve data quality.

21. Commercial visualisation technologies
Exceptionally, if UNEP’s objectives can be furthered by partnering with commercial data visualisation companies that produce certain key technologies3, UNEP-WCMC may provide access to the biodiversity data for which it has IPR on terms which differ from UNEP’s normal commercial terms which may include a waiver of any financial contribution from the licensee. However, in these circumstances the commercial entity will normally be expected to provide a degree of in-kind support for data development and maintenance.

22. Value-added Products
Where they have been created using public funds, value-added information services produced by UNEP-WCMC will be made available free of charge for non-commercial purposes though additional restrictions may apply.

23. Linking the UNEP-WCMC logo to quality products
It is commonly the case that the data released by UNEP-WCMC is misinterpreted in analysis or put to inappropriate uses. UNEP-WCMC does not have the capacity to participate in all the uses to which its data are put, but in certain key instances we will enter into partnerships which involve the deployment, analysis and interpretation of data and allow our logo to be associated with derived products. In these cases UNEP-WCMC will play a quality assurance role such that the international community can have confidence in the outputs.

1. For the purposes of this policy, biodiversity ‘data’ means data plus its associated metadata.
2. A commercial purpose is a) any use for profit or b) any use by an individual or entity operating within or on behalf of or to the benefit of or to assist the activities of any entity other than a not-for-profit organisation.
3. Such as Google Earth™, Microsoft® Virtual Earth™, ESRI ArcGIS™ Explorer