The SBIF Advisory Group has undertaken to drive a Review and redesign of the biological recording infrastructure in Scotland. Through this Review, we aim to determine the optimum infrastructure for biological recording, an infrastructure that in turn will attract the necessary belief, commitment and investment by stakeholders to be sustainable and successful in fulfilling the original vision of SBIF:

High quality species and habitat data will be collected and managed through a sustainable, co-ordinated and integrated local and national framework of organisations, partnerships and initiatives.  These data will be available to ensure that Scotland’s biodiversity, ecosystems and people benefit.

The Review seeks to take place in such a way as to be cohesive across Scotland with support from all stakeholders and the willingness and energy to then make any desired transitions by 2020.  It encompasses the following stages [details updated 12th October 2017]:

Stage 1 – Propose and plan the Review [COMPLETE]

The proposal to undertake a Review was approved by the SBIF Advisory Group at our meeting of the 5th September 2016. The SBIF Review Working Group was then formed to plan and carry out the activities involved. Our Review Timeline is continually maintained to show all planned activities, with greater accuracy and detail added as planning work for each stage is completed. All progress against our plans is reported via monthly highlight reports.

Follow this link to access our latest Review Timeline and monthly highlight reports

Stage 2 – Gather and understand stakeholder requirements [IN PROGRESS]

To understand how our biological recording infrastructure is working and to seek ideas on improvements from all stakeholders that would strengthen it further, locally and nationally, as part of Stage 2 we undertook a questionnaire open to all roles and sectors to ask what was working well and less well for everyone. The questionnaire is now closed and we would like to thank everyone who took the time to complete it – we are delighted to have received 290 responses.

To engage with the most ‘influential and interested’ of our major stakeholders, and to gain their detailed needs and ideas for an improved infrastructure, we held over 40 individual interviews with stakeholders from all roles and sectors. The interviews followed the format of the same set of four questions (what roles do you hold, what systems and processes do you use in carrying out your roles, what problems do you have with these systems and processes, and what is your vision of the future) as the structure for each interview.

Analysis of our questionnaire and interview findings is now nearing completion and we will publish the results here as soon as we can.

Roles and Sectors defined in the Review:

ROLES: 1 Recorder or Data Collector, 2 Verifier or County Recorder, 3 Collection Curator, 4 Recording Group Operator, 5 Recording Scheme Operator, 6 Data Provider, 7 Data Developer, 8 Data User, 9 Service Provider, 10 Service User, 11 Funder, 12 Facilitator

SECTORS: 1 Recorders or Recording Groups, 2 National Recording Schemes, 3 Environmental/conservation Non-Governmental Organisations, 4 Local Environmental Records Centres, 5 Commercial companies and environmental consultancies, 6 Museums, zoos and botanic gardens, 7 Academia and education, 8 Local authorities and national park authorities, 9 National or central government, 10 Cross-sectoral partnership or secretariat organisations

Stage 3 – Find and evaluate options [IN PROGRESS]

High-level planning by the SBIF Review Working Group has suggested that identifying and evaluating options can be achieved through four workshops, outlined below, to co-create a design for an improved infrastructure for biological recording. Detailed plans for each workshop will be prepared at the beginning of Stage 3.

Following consultation with stakeholders we have identified and been in contact with a ‘short list’ of workshop participants based on i) their availability, ii) maintaining representation across all sectors and iii) keeping the workshops to a manageable size.  In advance of each workshop we will circulate an agenda and background reading to the participants.

All workshops will be held at SNH’s Battleby Conference Centre near Perth. If you are personally keen to be involved in the workshops and wish to volunteer to be added to the ‘reserve’ list please contact Christine Johnston, Scottish Liaison Officer.

Workshop 1 – Data Flow Options (18-19th September 2017) [COMPLETE]

The aim of this workshop was to co-create a preferred ‘minimum viable model’ for effective data flows in Scotland.  This was achieved by evaluating six options (including the existing model), identifying potentially valid models based on agreed design principles, and comparing the effort and value of each valid model in order to reach a preferred model.

The key messages from the workshop were:

  1. That overall data flow should be centralised for maximum efficiency and to facilitate the availability of records for everyone (whether local, regional, national or central).
  2. That a single centralised route for the submission of ad hoc records should be established to accept records from anywhere in the UK.
  3. That both off line and online capture of records should be accommodated, including those from social media, but formal record submission is to be online.
  4. That verification happens at multiple points during the data flow pathway; autoverification is crucial for efficiency in handling the bulk of records that can be accepted without further assessment, while allowing records that need expert verification to be flagged. Both verified and unverified records to be aggregated but with a ‘quality stamp’ so that they are available and are of known quality.
  5. That aggregation should be facilitated as early as possible in the data flow pathway so that the aggregated records can help verification decisions and so that all data are available in context (with sensitive data restricted appropriately) for all users.
  6. That analysis tools are required at a national level for Scotland to meet Scottish needs while being part of a shared UK toolset.
  7. That improved feedback to recorders and ongoing access to their own records is key for effective engagement and recognition of recorders.

The preferred Data Flow model and a transcript of the workshop discussions are included in the workshop outputs document (available below). The Data Flow model will be taken forward to the future workshops.

Outputs from the SBIF Review Workshop on Data Flows [PDF, 56pp, 2.3MB]

Workshop 2 – Service Provision Options (17-18th October 2017)

The aim of this workshop will be to identify the service families that provide added-value for service users and to understand the scale at which each service family is needed to fulfil the requirements of each broad category of Service User. It will compare the effort and value of providing each service family in each possible way, i.e. at each level (local, regional, national and central), so that a preferred ‘minimum viable model can be determined and proposed as our vision for effective service delivery.

Workshop 3 – Governance Options (9-10th November 2017)

The aim of this workshop will be to specify the type and number of people, groups or organisations needed to facilitate the data flows and services proposed in workshops 1 and 2. It will identify the ways in which the people needed could be organised and located to deliver the data flows and services most efficiently for greatest value and ease of governance. It will compare the cost, effort and value of organising ourselves in each possible way so that a preferred ‘minimum viable model’ can be determined and proposed as our vision for effective organisation and governance.

Workshop 4 – Funding Options (4-5th December 2017)

The aim of this workshop will be to identify and/or design the funding mechanisms that will support our ‘minimum viable model’ in perpetuity. It will compare the funding level and viability of each possible mechanism for each stakeholder so that a preferred funding model for our biological recording infrastructure can be determined and proposed as our vision for sustainable funding.

Workshop Assumptions

  • That we will achieve full coverage of Scotland with data and services available for everywhere from anywhere
  • That we are seeking to maximise the step changes that can be achieved for collective benefit
  • That each workshop accepts the findings of the prior workshop and our Questionnaire and Interview results
  • That each workshop will produce a useful output to inform subsequent workshops and Review Recommendations
  • That, for the workshops noted, we will be agnostic about people (workshops 1-2), governance (workshops 1-2), funding (workshops 1-3) and technology (workshops 1-4)
  • That, in due course, all stakeholders will act to facilitate the governance and funding models proposed
  • That whatever we recommend could be replicated/desirable in other countries
  • That at least the minimum viable model is fundable

Stage 4 – Issue recommendations and plan implementation [NOT STARTED]

Detailed plans for Stage 4 will be developed during Stage 3.

Stage 5 – Support and monitor progress and outcomes [NOT STARTED]

Detailed plans for Stage 5 will be developed during Stage 4.

Background information about the Review

In February 2016, the then SBIF Steering Group (now known as the SBIF Advisory Group) and the NBN Trust agreed to bring together the SBIF and NBN so that we would be better aligned.  At the same time, we also undertook to review our biological recording infrastructure to enable it to be more sustainable and successful in operating the data flow pathway in Scotland.

Our overall infrastructure has never been fully reviewed – however, there is now a unique opportunity to take full advantage of new technologies for recording, managing and sharing data, and to ensure the sustainability of each element in the network, so that overall we bring about many benefits for recorders and users of biodiversity data.

For further information about the Review, please contact Christine Johnston, Scottish Liaison Officer

Follow this link to access all key documents, diagrams and reports relating to the Review