Joining Together for a Bee Data Standard
Sharing data on bees and their environment is necessary to get the full picture of their health status and challenges. Never before has there been such a vast collection of data from the field, and we need to connect it. National and regional authorities, researchers, field practitioners, beekeepers, farmers and others, continue to collect precious data. However, there is a common problem that makes it difficult to share and analyse. Data is collected and managed differently, so when they want to share it with other agents or projects, they find a compatibility problem. This situation delays and makes sharing valuable data on bees more complicated than it has to be. Stakeholders and experts concerned with bees and pollinators' health recognised this difficulty and are now trying to address it. The Apimondia Working Group on Bee Data Standardisation founded the BeeXML initiative  to join together and work for a unified way to share data related to bees and beekeeping.
During the 2017 Apimondia International Beekeeping Congress , engaged stakeholders joined together to create the working group on data standardisation on bees and beekeepers. Founding partners include representatives from different organisations such as the European Professional Beekeeping Association, Appalachian State University (US), Beep Monitoring Systems (Netherlands), the Smart Apiculture Management Services project, and others. BeeLife European Beekeeping Coordination is also an active and involved partner in the group.
BeeXML online meeting on January 20, 2021
The Apimondia working group on data standardisation  is promoting the joint development of the BeeXML standard. The group is advancing on the practical measures required to make data easily shareable. It suggests gathering and organising collected data in the XML (Extensible Markup Language) to store and transport data. Furthermore, BeeXML is a developing standard that requires sharing best practices. The future shaping of the standard depends on how experts apply it and agree on a typical data output.
Besides seeking to expand the BeeXML network, partners in the working group inaugurated the BeeXML journal . The peer-reviewed journal aims to "provide researchers, apiculturists, and bee enthusiasts with a global repository of standardised data". The journal specialises in the development of research and data standards. Its goal is to publish peer-reviewed research and data standards related to bees and beekeeping and curate bee-related data from environments worldwide. The journal is now receiving submissions from authors working on bee health and biology, beekeeping, apitherapy, pollination, and bee flora.
(Are you interested? Visit the BeeXML journal site or contact firstname.lastname@example.org)
There are various ways in which any interested stakeholders may contribute to the development of the BeeXML. You may submit an article to the journal, participate in meetings for brainstorming and information exchange, follow the standard's advancements, and apply its provisional conclusions on best practices for data collection and management.
A wide range of stakeholders can support the development of the BeeXML standard. We quote some of the possibilities already published in Bee Culture Magazine :
Figure 1. Sample of a few data sources
Vendor: If you are a provider of hive tracking software or beekeeping hardware, please consider providing sample data sets similar to figure 1, which would be helpful for us to surface the commonalities of the proprietary databases and adjust the standard.
Researcher: If you are a scientist who has created databases to keep track of the data from the hives in your experiments, please consider providing sample data sets to help define a useful standard.
Funder of Research: If you are part of a government agency or a commercial enterprise and you are funding bee-related research, please consider making it a requirement that all project data be handled in BeeXML. If the standard does not cover your type of data yet, submit a sample data set to drive the standardisation effort in this direction.
Donor: If you are a donor, please consider donating funds to support the researchers, technicians, and publicity and data library development.
Farmer: If you are a farmer, please consider helping us expand this effort to include data from farms, given that bees are responsible for pollinating any of the crops we grow, and because the health and vitality of bees are greatly affected by their environment in the field. Farmers could "advertise" sites with pollination requirements, foraging opportunities as well as threats to bee health or potential contamination sources for hive products. Based on the data beekeepers can decide where to place their hives.
Beekeeper: If you are a beekeeper and a customer of hive tracking tools, please insist on being able to import and export your data using BeeXML. It is not in your interest to become a captive user of a certain platform because your data are stuck in a proprietary format.
The BeeXML standard is not a stand-alone action. It depends on the participation and active engagement from stakeholders within and beyond the Apimondia working group on data standardisation. Partners conduct their efforts for standardisation in synergy to other data-centred initiatives such as The Bee Hub and the EU Bee Partnership Prototype Platform on Bee Health , a platform to centralise, aggregate and visualise pollinator-related data. The invitation to collaborate is always open, BeeLife and all partners working on the BeeXML standard welcome new ideas and participants.
For more information, visit the beexml.org website or read the following series of articles detailing the concepts and developments of the BeeXML standard:
 Cazier, J. Haefeker, W. & Hassler, E. 2018. BXML PART 2 ACHIEVING THE GOAL OF STANDARDIZED DATA. Bee Culture. https://www.beeculture.com/bxml-part-2-achieving-the-goal-of-standardized-data/
 BeeLife. 2020. EU Bee Partnership Develops an Innovative Platform to Integrate and Communicate Data on Pollinators. https://www.bee-life.eu/post/eu-bee-partnership-develops-an-innovative-platform-to-integrate-and-communicate-data-on-pollinators