Collaborations using Movebank

One goal of Movebank is to enable coordinated projects to advance research, wildlife management and conservation efforts. You can read about some of these efforts on our Partners page. The following steps provide guidance for using Movebank to plan and carry out a successful project involving multiple data owners.

Public and private data: Hundreds of data owners have made their data open on Movebank for the public to download and use. Please read the data policy, general Movebank terms of use and citation guidelines for expectations on the use of public data. In general, we recommend contacting owners of public studies about your project. While their permission may not be required based on the terms of use, these researchers typically expect to hear about published uses of their data while their work is still active. They may have important advice about understanding the data, valuable feedback on your project, and even additional data or connections.

  1. Define a clear research question and outline the data needs for addressing it. Researchers will be more excited to participate in a well-planned project to which their data and expertise will make a valuable contribution. Consider what taxonomic, geographic, temporal, methodological or other data characteristics define studies that are relevant for your proposed use. For example, usable data might require a minimum location accuracy, sampling rate or sample size, or be limited based on other data attributes, such as an analysis of only adult movements.

  2. Identify potential collaborators. Other researchers or organizations might help with analysis, provide existing data or collaborate on new data collection. In addition to those you already have in mind, you can browse Movebank to find other data owners who might want to participate, or use the REST API to obtain a summary of visible studies.

  3. Prepare a data-sharing agreement that you and each participant can sign. A formal agreement can clarify expectations and prevent miscommunication. The agreement can specify

  • who owns and is contributing data,
  • who will use the data,
  • a summary of the proposed analysis or other use,
  • the scope of data relevant to the analysis and any required data attributes,
  • steps to ensure data quality and completeness,
  • how the data owner will be credited for their contribution, and
  • whether and when you will relinquish access to the data.

In discussing proposed uses of the data, consider all steps of the project and how data may be analyzed, visualized or published. For written publications and other final products, use conditions can involve co-authorships, acknowledgements, citations, figures and tables, supplemental materials, as well as compliance with the ethics guidelines and data-sharing requirements of those funding and publishing the work. Review publisher policies at an early stage, and inform participants of the likely expectations for sharing data and reporting animal care protocols to be met at later stages of the project.

Also consider other forms of reporting that often take place while a project is in progress, such as conference abstracts, presentations and media coverage. Such materials can include additional content such as maps, photographs and logos that often expose more detail than is included in final products. Outreach opportunities might be offered to project leaders and other participants, and can come up on short notice. For large collaborations in particular, the data-sharing agreement can help define how the project, data, people and organizations can be reported in various situations.

Some data owners might have organizational data-sharing agreements they prefer or require. Providing a draft will show you are invested in your project, and will include details that could be helpful to add to other agreements. The following examples from Movebank and partners offer ideas for writing your data-sharing agreement:

  1. Contact the collaborators you want to invite, and present a brief proposal of your project and planned analysis. Make sure to include details they will need to decide whether to participate:
  • What are the data requirements?
  • What is the timeline of the project?
  • What funding do you have to complete the project?
  • What will you need from participants?
  • What opportunities will the participant have to contribute?
  • How do you plan to credit them in the resulting products?

We understand that for large projects, outreach to data owners through the contact form on Movebank can make this step prohibitively difficult. If you have more than ~100 studies, you can contact to request assistance in contacting data owners. Please provide a brief description of your proposed project, associated institutions, and the resources you have or are seeking to support the work.

  1. Decide how the data will be transferred. This could work in a number of ways:
  • The data owner adds you as a Collaborator or Data Manager to the study. (Collaborators may view or download data; Data Managers can also add and edit data.)
  • The data owner downloads files from Movebank and sends them to you.
  • The data owner provides you with files to upload to Movebank on their behalf.

When the scope of sharing is limited to a specific project, consider creating a Movebank user for that project. This username can be shared among all collaborators involved in an analysis so that data owners don't have to grant access to multiple users. When the project is complete, access can be easily removed by the data owner or project accounts can be disabled upon request (contact

  1. Decide how you will prepare and check data prior to analysis. Datasets may not be ready for analysis in their current state, and it can be difficult to identify errors or important missing information in others' data. You will need to work with the data owners to make sure that the data are complete, check for outliers and ensure that deployment periods are set properly (i.e. that pre-/post-deployment records are not associated with animals). There are a variety of tools on Movebank and MoveApps to help you with these tasks.

If you find mistakes or missing information in data, we encourage you to ask data owners to make updates in Movebank, and not just correct your local copy. Improving data archived in Movebank will help others find and properly use data in the future. We recognize that this takes extra effort for data users and owners, and can provide assistance and instructions in requesting and making updates.

  1. Fulfill your end of the data-sharing agreement. After investing time in discussing the project and providing you with data, researchers will want to hear about the progress of your project and be confident that acknowledgements, references and opportunities to contribute meet the expectations set in the agreement.

Good luck! If you have questions or need assistance with using Movebank for your collaboration, contact us at Remember that while Movebank is excited to facilitate collaborations, the proper use of shared data is the sole responsibility of the data owners and users.