Biological Record Centre Data must stand up to legal scrutiny; thus, the team must ensure completeness, accuracy and precision in the database. Biological record validation & verification is an ongoing process. The NBRC may include data yet to be verified in the database; this will be flagged as such and status updated to verified as quickly as possible. We update our GIS layers for species every six months, in March and in October, with the records that have passed this quality check, and these are the records supplied in our information reporting.
To meet the legal standards of data quality, the NBRC works to Association of Local Environmental Record Centres (ALERC) set guidelines in data management. Ecological data submitted to the record centre undergoes a quality check of:
- Validation (checking the accuracy of the supplied information) typically this includes corrections to any spelling or grammatical errors, checking locations against the supplied grid reference and matching to our database locations. All unique combinations for names - recorder, determiners, and sites will each need validating. Consistency in naming of aids efficiency (e.g. ‘L Davis’ and not ‘L.Davis, Liz Davis, LD’ that all must be checked separately’). Each supplied record is checked in this way, and we sometimes need to go back to the originator for corrections. We use of master list of locations with associated grid references to aid efficiency, however, this is ever growing and the locations not yet within this will take longer to be checked.
- Verification (checking the correctness of the supplied information) we work with county experts, national bodies and experts to check the likelihood the record submitted was identified correctly. The role of county verifier is voluntary and we do not set timelines on our county recorders. There are some taxa with no county recorder in place, some who are building in the role and/or some who do not have a working relationship with record centres. In the main, we have reciprocal data sharing agreements in place and aim for annual exchange of data, we track the updates to the database from this in our Gap Analysis and aim to keep datasets in our Recorder6 database as current as possible.
- The data, once checked, is then sorted to fit the most up to date Recorder6 species dictionary before upload (depending on the size of the dataset, this can take several hours). From this, we create our species layers (updated in March and October) as used for our data enquiries service.
Record centre staff are always working to enhance the quality of ecological data held for informed decision-making. We download data from the NBRC website twice a year and along with received incidentals, exchange as validated for verification by county recorders. We aim to keep our data current as a priority, particularly consultation species, and we add new datasets when we have the capacity to do so. The team in Northants are all part-time, as supported by service level partnerships, data information service and project work*. Our working hours are split between sites, species and habitat data management including; collection (recorder engagement, best practice in survey and digitisation), collation (formation of data agreements, logging and securely storing data received), database management (quality checks, database updates, as well as improvements in technology and efficiency of processes) and reporting (information requests, SLAs and supply for national research). We are transparent in our work and our data holdings, as updated in our annual reporting.
Section ‘III. Data Providers and Data Acquisition’ in particular P012 of the NBRC Policies and Procedures goes into further detail
Our data holdings as of April 2021
East of England Guide to your Local Environmental Records Centre*
*It is worth noting (p19) the average for LERC income from SLAs is 80%, for the NBRC this is around 40% with 50% enquiries service and 10% projects.