In 2003, following the publication of the seminal paper on DNA barcoding, “Biological identifications through DNA barcodes”, the potential for an organized barcoding effort was discussed at two workshops held at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. These discussions led to the establishment of the Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL) one year later, with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Hosted by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, CBOL is an international initiative comprised of 200 member organizations from 50 countries. With the goal of developing DNA barcoding as a global standard for specimen identification, CBOL organizes working groups, training initiatives, outreach efforts, and conferences, including the First International Barcode of Life Conference that was held at the Natural History Museum in London in February 2005.
As part of this international barcode consortium, the Canadian Barcode of Life Network was established in 2005. This network involved over 50 researchers from across Canada and represented the very first national network for DNA barcoding.
After the launch of the Barcode of Life Data Systems in 2004, the promise of a global collaboration that would enable the assembly of a DNA barcode reference library for all multi-cellular life emerged. This proposed “United Nations of barcoding” was met with a positive response by delegates from 25 countries that gathered in Guelph, Ontario in 2007. These representatives began to establish committees in their countries to oversee the participation of its researchers in this international collaboration.
The amalgamation of these efforts across the globe set the stage for the launch of the International Barcode of Life (iBOL) project in 2010. Initiated through Genome Canada’s International Consortium Initiative program and coordinated by the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, the iBOL project is the largest, most comprehensive biodiversity genomics program ever undertaken. The project brought together outstanding researchers spanning more than 25 nations, with the level of participation of these nations dependent on resources and research interests. While the core mission of the project is the assembly of barcode records for 500K species by the end of 2015, other research themes include: barcoding methods and technologies, informatics, administration, and GE3LS (Ethical, Environmental, Economic, Legal and Social aspects of the project).
iBOL is a not-for-profit corporation governed by a Research Oversight Committee and an International Scientific Collaboration Committee with members drawn from nations with funded barcoding projects linked to iBOL.