History of the database
NSB began as an offline database 'Neptune' in the early 1990s, as a research project headed by Dave Lazarus in Hans Thierstein's group at the ETH in Zürich. It was inspired by the Sepkoski marine families database (1979) which also at a later date inspired the development of the Paleobiology Database (PBDB). Several people contributed to data uploads and taxonomic list development, including Katharina von Salis, Jean Pierre Beckmann, Cathy Nigrini, Jean Pierre Caulet, Connie Sancetta and Cinzia Spencer-Cervato. Lazarus left the group for a position in Berlin in 1994, although data entry by the ETH group and Michael Knappertsbusch (Basel) continued. The initial content was analyzed and described by Spencer-Cervato (1999)- ca 200K occurrence records for Neogene plankton (foraminifera, coccolithophores, diatoms and radiolaria), from ca 100 sections.

The next phase of development took place in the early 2000s under Cervato's leadership as head of the NSF Chronos project (Ames, Iowa) with Patrick Diver (database) and Doug Fils (website front-end). Neptune was ported to standard sql technology, content was extended to ca 500,000 occurrence records and 300 sections by Cervato, Mark Leckie and Kendra Clark, focussing exclusively on calcareous plankon data but including many Paleogene and a few Cretaceous sections. Several simple queries were created for website users. In parallel, John Alroy of the PBDB provided, at the request of the PBDB micropaleo group (Lazarus, Jeremy Young, Huber and several others) a search function at the PBDB website for paleobiology type queries. These access opportunities supported several significant studies by external research groups (see list of selected papers below).

The current phase of development began in 2009 as the Chronos version of Neptune became increasingly unstable as NSF funded technical maintenance had ended. With the support of Niels Stenseth and Lee Hsiang Liow (Oslo), Diver and Lazarus ported Neptune to a simpler, easier to maintain implementation hosted at the MfN in Berlin. Renamed NSB (for Neptune Sandbox Berlin) and with additional support by the EU Earthtime project (in particular Heiko Pälike), Lazarus, Diver and Johan Renaudie extended the content further, to ca 800,000 occurrence records and nearly 500 sections. For the first time since the initial ETH design, NSB data types were significantly extended to include geochronologic data, in particular the event data used to create the age models and their calibrations. Additionally, the taxonomic name lists were substantially updated using the work of ODP's Paleontology Coordination Group (Lazarus, Emanuel Söding, Huber, Young, Masao Iawi, Dave Harwood and Nori Suzuki). NSB access was improved with the development in 2015 of a data link to Young's increasingly popular 'Mikrotax' community online taxonomic catalog for calcareous microfossils.

NSB also provides a data feed for analytic tools at the Geobiodiversity Database (created by Fan Junxuan).

Sepkoski, J., 1979. A kinetic model of Phanerozoic taxonomic diversity. II. Early Phanerozoic families and multiple equilibria. Paleobiology 5, 222–251.