Natural England grants help mobilise local data

Grant funding of £36k from Natural England during 2016/17 has enabled Local Environmental Records Centres and other local recording organisations to publish some of their data on the new NBN Atlas under an open licence.

Due to the enormous quantities of data currently loading into the Atlas database, not all of these are available yet, but they will be added to the queue and loaded in the next few weeks:

  • Merseyside Biobank used their funds to capture, collate, verify and publish almost 44,000 records of non-native species,
  • NatureSpot, the Leicestershire and Rutland-based citizen science charity, checked and published their entire dataset of 120,000 records from 1987-2016, captured from their recording website!
  • Shropshire Ecological Data Network provided an additional 43,000 new records from recent surveys, updating and adding to their already impressive open dataset of >840,000 records.
  • Sussex Biodiversity Records Centre focussed on capturing, collating, verifying and providing a complete dataset of over 85,000 local Coleoptera beetle records. They worked with local recorders to explore their views on open data, and with the Biological Records Centre to sort out an agreed ‘blueprint’ process for verifying data with relevant National Recording Schemes. Interestingly, 95% of local beetle recorders were happy to see their data published under an open licence – although the few who said no/maybe tended to be the major recorders.

So more than a quarter of a million local species records have become fully open data (all are published under the Creative Commons Attribution licence, CC-BY) from this work. Whilst it sounds a lot, this represents only a tiny drop of the local data that is out there, and illustrates the huge wealth of high-quality data whose full detail we would like to see becoming openly available for universal benefit.

Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre also received funding which they used to demonstrate their ability to rapidly verify the large volume of iRecord data in and around Bristol. We can’t publish this at present, but will work with BRC to see what can be done to mobilise this data on the Atlas soon.

We would like to thank all the organisations involved for their hard work and congratulate them for making these contributions to a more ‘open data’ world!

Written by Andy Webb, Natural England, April 2017.

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