FishBase: A citation powerhouse and essential resource in dealing with global issues

In over 30 years of continuous operation and development, FishBase is now the largest, most extensively accessed and one of the most highly cited public resources in the history of scientific research, a new study reveals.

In a paper published in the special edition of Cybium exclusive for FishBase, a team led by researchers from the University of Rhode Island evaluated the scientific impact of this global open access information system on fishes which contains a vast compilation of data on taxonomy, trophic ecology, reproduction and life-history traits, population dynamics, habitat and distribution, morphology and physiology, photos, and fish sounds. Results of the citation analysis for the period 1994 to 2020 show that FishBase has garnered over 10,000 citations from hundreds of peer-reviewed journals in Scopus and nearly 15,000 citations in Google Scholar, placing it in the top 1% of all cited publications in both the current and previous centuries.

Four indicators for the impact of FishBase: hits, citations based on Scopus, citations based on Google Scholar, Occurrence in famons based on Google Books.

Results further suggest that FishBase is most widely used in Europe, United States of America, Brazil, and Australia from top authors primarily in agricultural, biological and environmental sciences, specifically those working on fisheries biology and management, as well as parasitology, among others.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I anticipate the monster success that FishBase has become,” said Daniel Pauly, one of the two lead architects of FishBase. “What it suggests, though, is that there is a real hunger for databases like FishBase worldwide, covering different aspects of global biodiversity, and which combine scientific accuracy with public accessibility. So there is still work to do!”

This study is compelling evidence that FishBase is a powerful instrument for advancing the understanding of aquatic biodiversity across the globe. It fosters the sustainable management and conservation of the world’s oceans and is critical in dealing with other global issues.

“I think the findings of our citation analysis illuminate the rising global importance of FishBase and the diverse disciplines that are using it,” said Austin Humphries, lead author of the study. “The usage and usefulness of FishBase expands beyond environmental and ichthyology disciplines to medicine, social, and economic sciences,” he added. “There is a real need for publicly available resources like FishBase and it can serve as a model to other disciplines when developing databases.”

Bubble map representing the global distribution of FishBase citations in Scopus (1994-2020).

However, maintaining FishBase as a valuable public resource that is accessible to users worldwide requires a significant workforce to conduct research, populate the database, verify information, and make the data available online. To remain current and relevant with evolving global issues on biodiversity, environmental recovery and protection, sustainable development, fisheries management, and the impacts of climate change, a sustainable financial flow is crucial to fund its regular operations and expansion endeavors, Q-quatics, a non-profit NGO located in the Philippines, manages and maintains FishBase. Q-quatics is actively seeking for partners who are willing to support the activities and operations of FishBase through concerted project proposal submission, project collaborations or as future donors and sponsors.

The paper “Measuring the scientific impact of FishBase after three decades” was published in Cybium by the French Society of Ichthyology,


About Joann Glorioso

Events Coordinator / Communications & Public Relations Officer

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