It’s the year 2007 and the first iPhone has just been released. Briefly after, a Swiss digital agency called Liip launches an application for the powerful device that soon becomes the most downloaded app at that time in Switzerland. The popular application borrows timetable data from the SBB CFF’s website and combines it with the user's location. What is now at the center of every public transport app, sounded back then like the launch of a money-making machine. But it became even bigger. Following the Liip Principles open-over-closed and we-over-me, Liip made this data-theft-machine accessible to everyone – free of charge at

Today, is one of the most successful open data services in Switzerland, with almost 3 billion queries to date. Since then, an endless number of other creative, valuable and sometimes crazy applications have generated value from it. The Swiss Open Data movement has been formed around it. Providing open access to public transport data is now official Swiss government policy. It is public infrastructure.

Since then, several other sectors have been transformed by the power of Open Data Infrastructure: be it health, education, finance or agriculture. And it cannot stop here. Open Data Infrastructure is a catalyst for innovation, enabling diverse entities to collaborate and develop groundbreaking solutions.

The fight against the loss of biodiversity is a system that is in urgent need of this kind of boost.

Fighting the loss of biodiversity

Biodiversity is about the variety of life on Earth - plants, animals, their interactions, and ecosystems. Ecosystems are crucial for us as they provide clean water, store CO2, and keep soils fertile. However, biodiversity is at risk. Switzerland's Federal Council reports a concerning state of biodiversity, affecting its ability to support ecosystems in the future. Over half of the world's economy relies on nature and its biodiversity. We must accelerate research and knowledge application to safeguard biodiversity.

The system in place – and the roadblocks

Scientific research is one field of practice that is working towards these aims. Researchers worldwide are contributing data to our knowledge corpus – funded by public money. This part works well and is established for decades.

However, much of this growing data and knowledge collection is either physically stored in libraries and natural history museums or published online as unstructured data in PDFs. Some of the work published online is even locked behind paywalls. These barriers stop us from fully leveraging the benefits of this data. This means, a crucial part of the data and know-how that helps us to fight against the loss of biodiversity is locked up and not easy accessible.

Plazi: The Robin Hood of biodiversity data

Since 2008, Swiss-based not-for-profit organization Plazi has been supporting and promoting the development of persistent and openly accessible digital taxonomic literature from biodiversity research.

Plazi developed and maintains the digital infrastructure for data mining and extraction from taxonomic publications. Along with other partner institutions[1], they liberate data on animals, plants, fungi, and more. It’s Plazi’s mission to make taxonomic data FAIRly available to the community: Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable. Plazi has also developed trainings to sensitize researchers and publishers, and build a global community.

Liip and Plazi have found themselves as partners with common values.

What do we need?

How to accelerate the development of Open Data infrastructure for biodiversity research data?

Most of the required infrastructure has been built, or is currently being added to, and is maintained by Plazi and its partners. Resources are needed for the maintenance of these services and to expand data liberation processes. However, in order to really accelerate these efforts, we particularly need to simplify access to the data itself on the one hand, and on the other hand, become more efficient in making use of the data at hand:

  • We need access to the approximately 1,000 most important journals in biodiversity research for the next five to ten years. Since it would take too long for enough academic publishers in this sector to alter their revenue model, a temporary solution is required. Foundations or public funds could decide to finance access for a limited time frame.
  • Expanding community work and trainings to spread the word and skills around Open Biodiversity (Research) Data among as many researchers, academics and publishers as fast as possible.
  • A first Swiss Biodiversity Hackathon, exploring and illustrating the power of Open Data infrastructure for the fight against biodiversity loss in Switzerland – and beyond.

Looking back

We are in the year 2035. Looking back, Switzerland's commitment to open biodiversity data in 2025 – defining it as Public Infrastructure – set a powerful precedent. This move led to widespread adoption and community growth. The open data infrastructure spurred innovation, business efficiency, and the development of intelligent solutions, driven by the demand for biodiversity reporting. This environment also advanced biodiversity monitoring techniques, creating a momentum to combat biodiversity loss effectively, enabling companies to shift from reporting to taking significant action.

The combination of urgency, legal mandates, accessible data, and infrastructure fuelled a decisive momentum to address biodiversity loss. The resulting innovations empowered companies to transition from mere reporting to impactful action.

[1] The Biodiversity Literature Repository at Zenodo, CERN, serves as a sustainable repository for data and annotations derived from publications. The BiodiversityPMC combines publications from the life sciences with those from the fields of biodiversity and nature conservation. The data is used by the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) to link observations with the research results derived from them. The data flows into the checklist bank to expand the Catalogue of Life. TreatmentBank and new publication workflows generate a constant stream of new semantically enhanced publications and legacy data. All these institutions, products and platforms - and more - work with data from Plazi, among others.