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NBII To Be Taken Offline Permanently in January

NBII Homepage graphic
The NBII will cease operations on January 15, 2012 (NBII home page shown here).
January 15, 2012, will see the end of a long-term project to empower users of biological resources data and information. The National Biological Information Infrastructure, or NBII, was begun in 1994 within what was then the National Biological Service (NBS) of the Department of the Interior. Its purpose and mission were to ensure that scientists, resource managers, decision makers, and concerned citizens could go to a single place on the Web and find biological resources data and information from vetted sources—whether in government, academia, non-governmental organizations, or the private sector.

In 1996, following the Congressionally directed closure of the NBS, the NBII was transferred along with other remaining programs of the defunct bureau and became the USGS Biological Resources Division.

With an early focus on standards, the NBII created and promoted the Biological Data Profile of the Federal Geographic Data Committee and participated in many other standards development activities to facilitate the exchange and integration of data needed for responding to critical environmental challenges.

The NBII enjoyed great success, and in 1998 was commended by the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) for its efforts. This body also laid out a path to further the NBII's aims, which guided efforts for the next decade. In 2001, the NBII's presence on the Web began to take shape in the form of regional and thematic nodes that specialized in providing access to the information resources most important to their individual geographic ("regional") or scientific ("thematic") niches. By 2010, the number of unique visitors to the NBII's online sites exceeded 3 million, with users downloading an average of a terabyte of data per month.

In recent years, however, the NBII—like so many other important federal programs—was plagued with budget cuts. The FY 2012 budget mandated its termination. The main Web site,, will be taken offline on January 15, 2012, along with all of its associated node sites.

The NBII provided three main benefits to the biological resource community. First, its design as a federation of partners allowed it to assist data owners in maintaining critical assets that might not otherwise be made broadly available; second, scientists, managers, and others searching for data on a particular subject could do so from a single, Web-based source rather than having to go to the sites of numerous organizations to compile the results they sought; and third, the NBII provided users with direct access to many data resources that are deeply embedded in structured databases on the Web and that are relevant to biology—resources that would not be revealed to them using a standard search engine such as Google.

USGS staff now are working with partners to identify ways that—to the extent possible—will help to fill the gap in data access that will be created when the NBII goes offline.


1987 – Foundations of a Biological Survey (Association of Systematics Collections, now the National Science Collections Alliance) – The need to create a national system to provide access to natural resources data is first articulated by the science and management communities.

1993 – A Biological Survey for the Nation (National Research Council) – The National Research Council recommended the Department of the Interior develop a "National Biotic Resources Information System," which later became the NBII.

1994 – NBII development began.

1998 – Teaming with Life: Investing in Science to Understand and Use America's Living Resources (PCAST) – noted that the NBII was succeeding, but needed more funding and an online network of nodes.
NBII received Renew America's Environmental Achievement award.
1999 – NBII-created Biological Data Profile ratified by the Federal Geographic Data Committee.
NBII received Renew America's Environmental Achievement award for the second time.

NBII received Government Executive's Government Technology Leadership award and Best Feds on the Web award.
2000 – Eisenhower National Clearinghouse featured the NBII as one of its "Digital Dozen" picks as one of the Web sites most important to science education.
Scout Report for Science & Engineering cited the NBII as one of the top 25 sites for access to science information.
2001 – First NBII node Web sites came online.
NBII named U.S. node to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
2002 – NBII named World Data Center for Biodiversity and Terrestrial Ecology.
NBII portal won the Government Solutions award.

NBII's Southern Appalachian Information Node won an ESRI award.
2004 – NBII amassed more than 100 partners from all sectors.

2005 – Two NBII partners awarded the Department of the Interior's Conservation Service Award for their NBII work, deemed "outstanding contributions to the DOI mission."
NBII and partner, Cambridge Scientific Abstracts, launch the peer-reviewed e-journal Sustainability: Science, Practice & Policy. (Journal production ceased in 2010 due to budget reductions.)
2009 – NBII named U.S. node to the International Ocean Biogeographic Information System.

2010 – NBII was named "Portal of the Month" in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Information Exchange for Marine Educators newsletter.
NBII search engine, Raptor, received an award for Outstanding Information Technology Achievement from Government Computer News.
2011 – Sustaining Environmental Capital: Protecting Society and the Economy (PCAST) noted that the NBII's insufficient funding prevented it from providing many of the services detailed in its 1998 report, but that the need for those services is still critical.