The National Biodiversity Network and Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre
Taken from an original article written by Tim Corner - Manager of BRERC - for NBN News 43 (Winter 2009)
Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre (BRERC) provides the central repository for biodiversity and geodiversity records covering the ‘Avon’ area. BRERC was originally set up in 1974 by Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery and we remain administered by Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives Service on behalf of a wider partnership. They have several million species records along with extensive habitat and site data, as well as articles, journals, papers, drawings and reports. The information dates back approximately four hundred years, although most relate to the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries up to the present day. Much of this information is already computerised and this includes approximately 1.2 million species records and 64,000 polygons (land parcels) of habitat and sites data.
All of this information is made available in many different formats and media to most people, either through their data search services or through their routine provision of data to their Partners, which include the local authorities, Avon Wildlife Trust, Natural England and Environment Agency.
Effectively this means they conduct several hundred data searches each year, that all of the electronic data is available on the computers of ecologists, local and strategic planners, and that the data is also reproduced within local plans, strategic documents and referred to in target assessments. They pride themselves on being able to provide data to virtually everyone who puts in a data enquiry, and within the time limits agreed. They say with confidence that several thousand individuals and organisations are routinely provided with data by BRERC each year.
With the above in mind how could BRERC possibly benefit from spending time formatting and providing their species data to the NBN Gateway?
To explain how they looked at some figures.
BRERC took the leap of faith and provided all of their species data to the Gateway back in 2008. The NBN Gateway team don’t merely say thank you, upload the data and leave it at that. They conduct validation of the data and other useful services, but also provide up-to date figures on things like the number of times the data is accessed and used, with the interactive maps, grid maps site reports and so on (not just the times when someone happens to come across it by accident and don’t use it).
They are already confident that several thousand people are accessing their data each year through their normal routine data provision. In September 2009 alone BRERC data was accessed and used via the Gateway on 43,094 occasions in one month!
In the 12 months between September 2008 and September 2009 the number of occasions the data was accessed was 629,994 times - over half a million times in one year!
Since putting it onto the Gateway, the BRERC species dataset has been used on just under a million occasions.
At present they are unable to say on how many of those occasions the enquirer was satisfied, or how useful the data was. However, they can say that in general the data service provided couldn’t compare with the fantastic service they provide directly at BRERC. However in their wildest dreams they could not compare with the sheer volume of enquiries being handled by the Gateway. Tim also points out that, although they do not yet know how useful the data was and whether users were satisfied, they we can say that BRERC has not received one complaint about the Gateway service or received any complaints about the data itself.
It highlights how BRERC performs a public duty beyond their region and in Tim's words is "Just one reason why I believe the National Biodiversity Network works".