NatureCounts Data Sharing Policy

It is the goal of the Avian Knowledge Network (AKN) to share observational data on bird species with as widespread an audience as possible. With this in mind, we recognize the need to assure data quality and validity, and that data sets available through the AKN have appropriate documentation (metadata) to judge data quality and potential usefulness. We must also assure the privacy rights of landowners and data contributors.

Data ownership

All contributing members of NatureCounts have complete authority over the use of the data they have provided, and can withhold data at any time from any party or application. Each data set contributed to the AKN has an associated level of access to that data (see details here). It is recognized that the investment and time committed to the collection of a data set entitles the owner to the fundamental benefits of its use.

Acknowledgements and recognition

All users of any NatureCounts data must clearly acknowledge the contribution of the members who are making data available. Each dataset comes with its own Data Sharing Policy that defines the various conditions for data usage. This document is available from the datasets page, and is also provided as a text file along with any data that you download from this site. Please review all documents carefully and make sure to contact the primary data owners for permission, collaboration and review as required. This acknowledgement shall include at most, co-authorship, and at least, recognition in any printed or Internet content, and will depend largely on the degree to which a given analysis or publication relies on any single data provider’s data. Additionally, appropriate branding (i.e. logos of contributing members) should be placed on any website, educational, outreach, presentation, or promotional materials on which the data are used. All researchers making substantial use of a data set are required to communicate directly with the investigators who acquired the data, or those to whom responsibility for the data has been entrusted, prior to publication. Consultation before and during analysis of the data is also essential and required.

Redistribution of data

As a general rule, data acquired from NatureCounts should not be redistributed directly to third parties or made available publicly for download, unless explicitly authorized in the Data Sharing Policy of an individual dataset. This ensures that the appropriate information about the dataset and the conditions of use is always included with the data, and also ensures that the most up to date version of the dataset. NatureCounts data will not be modified except as needed to ensure compatibility with the recipient’s geographic information system.


All data contributed to the NatureCounts is clearly documented using the descriptive metadata standards of the Bird Monitoring Data Registry (BMDR). The BMDR describes the data ownership, geographic coverage, protocols, and access rights. All data stored in the NatureCounts conform to the Bird Monitoring Data Exchange (BMDE). The BMDE is a data exchange standard that extends the Darwin Core metadata schema for data integration. It is the responsibility of data users to understand sampling differences and/or protocol effects between projects before using any data from NatureCounts.

Location coordinates of data held within NatureCounts are defined by the project that collects the data. Descriptions of the location precision for a project can be obtained by the BMDR, if they are not included in the BMDE datasets. The spatial data standards of NatureCounts will adhere as much as possible to those standards being developed by the International Union of Biological Sciences Taxonomic Databases Working Group’s subgroup on spatial standards (