Movebank Data Repository FAQ

The Movebank Data Repository contains published animal movement and bio-logging datasets in the Movebank format. This is distinct from the main Movebank website and database, in which users control access and are responsible for their data quality. To be published in the Movebank Data Repository, a dataset in Movebank undergoes an official review process and, when accepted, is granted a unique identifier (DOI), dataset citation and license, and is made publicly available.

See below for answers to general questions about the data repository: how it works, how to publish your data and how to access and use published data. If you have other questions, please contact us at support@movebank.org.

How the repository works

What kinds of datasets does Movebank publish?

How do data in Movebank's data repository differ from other data in Movebank?

Why has Movebank developed this repository?

How are datasets in the repository licensed?

What is a DOI?

Are there other repositories like this?

Is there any cost for publishing my data?

How to publish your data

How do I prepare and submit my data?

Why should I publish my data?

Can I use the Movebank Data Repository to fulfill data-sharing requirements?

What is a data package?

Why does my dataset have to be uploaded to Movebank before it can be published in the repository?

Can I place an embargo on the publication of my data?

Can I publish my data but restrict access to it?

How to access and use published data

How do I access published datasets?

Does the Movebank Data Repository have an API?

How do I cite data from the Movebank Data Repository?

How can I re-use published data for a new purpose?

How the repository works

What kinds of datasets does Movebank publish?

The Movebank Data Repository includes .csv files of animal movement and bio-logging data that have been imported into Movebank and thus follow Movebank's data model and vocabulary, along with associated data files that may include raw data files and additional descriptive information. The repository consists primarily of datasets that are described in peer-reviewed journal articles or other written reports.

How do data in Movebank's data repository differ from other data in Movebank?

In order to ensure that data remain accessible over time, all data published in the repository are available to the public. Movebank is designed to help scientists share and work with data throughout the research cycle. Thus, data in Movebank include information that is still being analyzed and edited and may not be suitable for public distribution. In contrast, datasets in the repository have gone through a review process. These datasets are typically associated with a written study published in an academic journal, which describes how and why the data were collected and analyzed. Before being accepted for publication, users are required to provide enough supporting information that others can understand the attributes and values in the dataset and how they were obtained.

Why has Movebank developed this repository?

Collecting animal tracking data takes enormous time, effort and funding, and also impacts the animals who carry tags. We believe that these data provide invaluable records about nature and should be preserved for future generations. These studies are often taxpayer-funded—however, after a paper about the study is published, these data are often privately stored and never used again. Archiving these data provides public access to these data and allows the data to be used again to address new questions. In addition, publishing datasets in the Movebank format facilitates combining multiple datasets, for example to do comparative analyses or to increase sample sizes, and allows them to be analyzed using tools developed for working with Movebank-format data.

How are datasets in the repository licensed?

Datasets in the Movebank Data Repository are licensed using the Creative Commons Zero License, is a "no rights reserved" license that places works in the public domain with as little legal restriction as possible. This choice follows the model of Data Dryad, and ensures that data we maintain in this long-term repository will be available for future reuse. More restrictive license options could create unintentional ambiguity and restrictions on use of the data—for example, requiring citation could inhibit a metaanalysis of thousands of datasets due to journal limitations on the number of references—and are unlikely to be enforced legally. Instead, we expect that users follow the same norms that prohibit scientific misconduct and plagiarism generally: as with published written works, works published in the repository must still be cited as appropriate following professional and ethical standards. Read more about licenses in Movebank's data policy.

What is a DOI?

A DOI (digital object identifier) is a stable, permanent, unique and secure identifier. This identifier will not change over time (in the way that a link or URL can) and is an unambiguous way of referring to and providing access to the published version of a dataset. The DOI should be included in all citations of the dataset, for example if the dataset is referred to in an article or listed on a data owner's CV. Digital object identifiers in the Movebank Data Repository are issued by Movebank through the University of Konstanz Library, which has a contract with the German National Library of Science and Technology, a non-commercial DOI registration agency for research data that manages DataCite, a non-profit organization that promotes data access, citation, and reuse. Read more about DOIs at www.doi.org.

Are there other repositories like this?

Yes, there are an increasing number of repositories that publish and archive original datasets in a way that promotes data quality, persistence and reuse. The Movebank Data Repository is unique in being a repository specifically for animal movement and other bio-logging data that archives data from many authors and institutions in a shared format, along with additional files to make sure the data from each unique study are fully described. The Movebank Data Repository was modeled after Dryad, a repository for data underlying scientific and medical publications. In addition there are a growing number of journals, such as Ecological Archives, Biodiversity Data Journal and Scientific Data that publish datasets along with a written description.

Is there any cost for publishing my data?

Review, publication and archiving of datasets in the Movebank Data Repository is currently free of charge. The costs of data curation, software, storage and maintenance are covered for the scientific community by the Max Planck Society and the Communication, Information, Media Centre at the University of Konstanz. Read more about Movebank's funding.

How to publish your data

How do I prepare and submit my data?

To prepare a dataset to submit to the Movebank Data Repository, read our best practices for formal public archiving.

  • Upload and organize your dataset in Movebank (see the Movebank user manual for instructions). For help, contact support@movebank.org. At minimum, you will submit and publish .csv files with your tracking or other sensor data and reference data in Movebank format.

  • Prepare a written description of the dataset, typically a manuscript for submission in a peer-reviewed journal. We encourage submission prior to final publication of your article as it allows you to include the citation for your dataset directly in your written publication. We also support publication of data underlying already published papers and reports.

To submit the dataset, please contact the Movebank Data Curator, Sarah Davidson, at sdavidson@ab.mpg.de. Include (1) the name of the related Movebank study (if there is one), (2) a copy of any manuscripts (to be kept confidential), papers or reports describing the dataset, and (3) the author list you’d like to use for the published dataset. This allows us to talk with you about your dataset, and if needed to schedule to have the review completed in time for accepted datasets to be published at the same time as the associated journal article.

Why should I publish my data?

Animal movement data have a tremendous value in their own right, in addition to the value of papers and reports that describe and interpret these data. In most cases, the data collection was funded by taxpayers. For these reasons and others, journals and funding institutions are increasingly requiring that data underlying completed and published research be publicly archived. In the same way that you publish papers describing your research so that others can build on your findings, publishing your data allows future researchers to access these data and use them for conservation programs, meta-analyses and as records of biodiversity and animal movements and behavior.

Publishing your data in a domain repository like the Movebank Data Repository is generally preferred over sharing through supplemental materials or by request. Research indicates that supplemental materials (Anderson et al. 2006) and sharing upon request do not reliably maintain access to data over time (Vines et al. 2014), even when owners have agreed to sharing as a precondition for publication or funding of their research (Wicherts et al. 2006, Couture et al. 2018, Stodden et al. 2018).

After submitting a dataset for publication, Movebank will review your dataset for free, ensuring that it is consistent with your written analysis of the data and that it is thoroughly described so it can be understood by others. We then publish the dataset, assigning each data file a persistent digital object identifier (DOI) that will always link to your data and can be cited by others and included as a publication on your CV. As with written publications, ethics and norms require that others provide proper acknowledgement of references to or re-use of other researchers' data and ideas (read Movebank's citation guidelines). Lastly, so that your published data can be discovered more widely, we are working to make the repository searchable by the growing number of biodiversity and scientific data repositories.

Can I use the Movebank Data Repository to fulfill data-sharing requirements?

Many research funding agencies and academic journals now have rigorous data-sharing policies requiring scientists to make their data available to other researchers. Movebank and the Movebank Data Repository provide an efficient way for scientists to comply with these types of policies. Contact us at support@movebank.org for help in preparing a data management plan or fulfilling specific requirements.

What is a data package?

A published dataset in the Movebank Data Repository will consist of multiple files (for example, a file containing the actual tracking timepoints and locations and a file containing information about the animals, tags and deployments in the study). In these cases, a DOI is assigned to the entire group of files that compose the published dataset, known as a data package. Each file within the package is assigned a component DOI.

Why does my dataset have to be uploaded to Movebank before it can be published in the repository?

When data are uploaded to Movebank, they are converted to a shared format. For example, all datasets in Movebank are in the WGS84 reference system and all timestamps are stored using the same format and in the same time zone. All data attributes are defined and documented by Movebank's vocabulary. Requiring that datasets are in this format and viewable in Movebank allows us to review the data and ensures consistency across published data packages. This shared format also means that published datasets can be analyzed using software that can read Movebank's data format.

Can I place an embargo on the publication of my data?

We encourage releasing datasets as soon as possible after they are accepted for publication and the data owner has made any needed revisions, or when the written analysis is published or the accepted manuscript is made publicly available online. We will discuss this timing with you during the review process. We can offer a one-year embargo for justified reasons if this is acceptable to any journal or funders you are working with. If you wish to place a longer embargo on your study, please contact us directly at support@movebank.org to discuss.

Can I publish my data but restrict access to it?

Because we cannot guarantee long-term access to data if access is restricted, we do not publish data with restrictions on data access or use. However, we do recognize that there are sometimes good reasons to restrict access, for example if data collection is ongoing or public exposure could pose a threat to animals. In these cases, you could consider publishing a version that removes sensitive or more recent portions of the dataset. Movebank offers other options for sharing data without publishing it. For more information, read about

How to access and use published data

How do I access published datasets?

Published datasets are stored at the Movebank Data Repository. Go to Search for options to review and find data of interest. The landing page for each data package and file contains links to the data files and recommended citations.

If you have a DOI for a data package published in Movebank, go to https://www.doi.org to be directed to the package's landing page.

Does the Movebank Data Repository have an API?

The Movebank Data Repository is based on the open-source Data Dryad repository software, you can access files and metadata using the data access methods similar to those described on the Data Dryad Wiki. Note that the repository is not based on the current version of the Dryad software so not all of the methods described will work. In addition, you can search published metadata stored at DataCite as described in the DataCite API. Movebank has a REST API, which can be used to access the Movebank study that complements each package in the repository.

How do I cite data from the Movebank Data Repository?

The landing page and readme file for every file published in the repository includes recommended citations for the data and for related written works. See Movebank's citation guidelines for additional examples.

How can I re-use datasets for a new purpose?

Data from the Movebank Data Repository are published under a Creative Commons Zero license and so may be reused with proper citation without additional permission. However, we highly recommend that you try to contact the data creator if you will be re-analyzing data. Researchers will likely be interested in learning about new uses of their data—they might also have important insight about how to properly analyze and interpret their data and/or might have additional data they would be willing to contribute to your project. Also see