Defra contract – 2011 – 2014

DEFRA continues to invest in the NBN

We are pleased to announce that Defra are continuing their long-term strategic investment in the National Biodiversity Network by awarding a contract to support the development of the NBN during the period 2011-2014.  The total value of the contract is £474,410, which will enable the NBN Trust and partners to implement a themed work programme delivering the following objectives:

•    To maintain and develop the NBN Gateway and associated web services.
•    To increase capacity by providing tools and services to the volunteer recording community and to local data users and suppliers.
•    To improve data quality, supply and access by developing efficient data flow models and facilitating data exchange agreements between NBN partners.
•    To increase the use of biodiversity data from the NBN Gateway, particularly within the research, policy evaluation and planning/consents sectors.

Work to deliver these objectives will be organised into the following project areas:


This project area is concerned with maintaining and improving data flow across the NBN, facilitating data exchange between local and national data providers and supporting the adoption of tools and technology for accessing and using biodiversity data.  Key elements of this project area include:

•    Gap analysis and pilot data exchange agreements between local and national data providers.
•    Provision of biodiversity data management tools workshops.
•    Funding for Local Environmental Records Centres to deliver training to their local recording community to facilitate the adoption of new recording technology.  
•    Production of guidance on biodiversity data services and statutory requirements.


The aim of this project area is to encourage and support the adoption of integrated online recording systems by professional user groups, namely Local Environmental Records Centres, Wildlife Trusts and ecological consultants.  This will be closely coordinated with work by the Biological Records Centre to facilitate the adoption of online recording by national recording schemes and societies.  The overall objective is to improve the efficiency of data flow and deliver cost savings to partner organisations.  Key elements of this project area include:

•    Consultation workshops to agree data flow and verification processes.
•    Funding and technical support for the adoption of online recording and Web Services.
•    Delivery of training in online recording and Web Services technology.


NBN Record Cleaner is an automated validation and verification decision-support tool for recorders and biodiversity data managers.  It is designed to improve the efficiency of data flow and ensure the quality of data, by enabling the automated checking of large datasets in a variety of formats against validation and verification ‘rule sets’.  These rule sets are based on the known spatial and temporal distribution of each species, as well as an assessment of the level of difficulty involved in its identification.     Record Cleaner is being developed as a Web Service to facilitate its integration with online recording systems and existing data management systems.  

Under the 2008-11 Defra contract, verification rule sets were developed for birds, vascular plants, butterflies, macro moths and marine species.   Funding is available under the new Defra contract to enable experts to develop verification rule sets for other taxonomic groups.  Invitations to tender will be released shortly.


The success of many projects covered by this contract depends on the active engagement of the Local Environmental Records Centre community.  Defra have therefore agreed to provide financial support to enable the Association of Local Environmental Records Centres (ALERC) to employ a National Coordinator.  The ALERC National Coordinator will facilitate the adoption of new biodiversity data management technology, encourage exchange of ideas and promote collaborative working between Local Environmental Records Centres and NBN partners throughout the UK.   ALERC are also providing financial and in-kind support for this post. 


This contract includes a contribution to support the development of the NBN Gateway during 2011 – 2012 to deliver improvements such as the functionality to display absence records and the ability to support data from the Channel Islands.

Finally, the agreement also covers the management and administration of the contract, including reporting and coordination activities to ensure that the component projects are managed appropriately.

Some areas of work proposed by the NBN Trust and partner organisations could not be funded under the Defra contract.  Notable examples were the development of tools to support planning screening, biodiversity offsetting and compliance with the NERC Biodiversity Duty, a pilot project to facilitate data mobilisation and data use within the higher education sector, and support for the uptake of tools and technology to facilitate the use of NBN Gateway data to inform marine and coastal planning and licensing activities.  It might be possible to pursue these work areas if additional funding can be sourced.

For any queries or further information please contact Geoff Johnson

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