NBN Gateway User Review – initial results

As part the NBN Strategy Refresh, the NBN Trust conducted a survey of user experiences with the NBN Gateway. The purpose of this survey was to help the NBN Trust to better understand the current NBN Gateway user experiences and to identify where improvements can be made.  The results of this survey have helped inform discussions at a NBN Gateway User Needs Analysis workshop held on the 20th November 2014 and will continue to be used as we look at future changes to the NBN Gateway. 

The questionnaire received 150 responses from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man, Republic of Ireland and Brussels which represents the views of 83 organisations and 55 individuals.  We are grateful to everyone who has fed into this programme of work to date and we will continue to consult and feedback to you as we analyse the results and start to implement changes you have asked for.

The survey was split into nine sections;

  • Who are you?
  • Providing your data to the NBN Gateway
  • Your user experience
  • Accessing Data
  • NBN Gateway Functionalities
  • Other sources of biodiversity data
  • Future development of the NBN Gateway
  • UK Species Inventory
  • Final Questions

We have started to analyse the results of this survey and the following article summarises what we have heard so far.
The overarching message is that users want a reliable system which is stable, efficient and user friendly.  Many people would recommend the NBN Gateway to others, but we heard that they would recommend ‘with caveats’.  It is clear that there is a faithful network of NBN Gateway users, many of whom have been using the NBN Gateway since the formation of the NBN and it was great to also hear from many new users of the NBN Gateway. 
The NBN Trust is keen to find out from data providers why they wish to provide data to the NBN Gateway as this will inform the continued development of a the foundation that underpins the entire NBN.  We heard a wide range of reasons, but the most prevalent is to provide data for the common good and to advance our understanding of biodiversity. The next most important reasons are to make data available for scientific research and to make data available for education.
Over the past six months of consultation the NBN Trust has heard from many on the data flow situation here in the UK.  We have a strong network of dedicated verifiers and data, at times, flows efficiently through the system.  However, we heard that almost 25% of data providers do not know when their data arrives on the NBN Gateway, and almost a further 25% of providers told us that their records take more than six months to arrive on the NBN Gateway.  While many data providers do not feel that the current time to market is acceptable, there is a clear message that verification of records is carried out by volunteers and is under resourced, therefore while people would like data flows to be faster in theory, this may not be possible in practice.  Access to up to date data is key for so many of the users of the NBN Gateway and the NBN Trust will be working with the Network to explore how we can speed up this ‘time to market’ for those users who would like their records to be visible on the NBN Gateway faster.
Looking at species distribution maps was unsurprisingly the most popular reason for using the NBN Gateway, but the other uses were extremely varied and included using the NBN Gateway to upload, manage and disseminate data to identifying gaps to fill in data holdings when on holiday.  It was interesting to hear that very few people use the NBN Gateway on their phone or on a tablet.  We will be looking to see how the NBN Gateway could be developed to make the layout more suitable for these devices, especially given the rapid changes in technology we are all currently experiencing around the use of touch screen devices.  We have received many ideas on how to improve the search functionality within the NBN Gateway as we have heard that there is considerable room for improvement.
The NBN Trust, as part of the review of the Terms and Conditions will be using the information gathered on the access controls to assess how to make these easier to use, and clearer to understand.  The top three reasons for not using the access controls were people not needing to use them to date, people not knowing how to use them and 25% of respondents not knowing they exist!  It is clear there is still a lot of work to be done on communicating the access controls further and we have heard many suggestions for improvements.
Additional features that people would like to see developed in the NBN Gateway include habitat/ecosystem layers, ability to compare species distribution, summary data about what is available through the NBN Gateway, an improved visualisation system for mapping data and photos of species to enrich the species information pages and make biological recording data really come to life. 
The full report on ‘what we have heard’ will be published in the coming months.  Until then, the NBN Trust would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their continued effort in feeding into the NBN Strategy Consultation, responding to the NBN Gateway User Review Questionnaire, partaking in the Country Strategy Workshops, attending the NBN Gateway Needs Analysis and the NBN Gateway Terms and Conditions workshops, attending the NBN Conference and continuing to tell the NBN Trust where they see the future of the NBN travelling. 
Thank you to the following organisations who submitted a response and all the individuals who took the time to complete the questionnaire:

Aberdeenshire Council
Aspect Ecology Ltd
Bangor University
Bat Conservation Trust
Bedford Borough Council
Bedfordshire and Luton Biodiversity Recording and Monitoring Centre
Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives
Bristol regional Environmental Records Centre (BRERC)
British Dragonfly Society
British Lichen Society
Butterfly Conservation
Caddis Recording Scheme
Caledonian Conservation Ltd
Central Scotland Green Network Trust (and formerly Central Scotland Forest Trust)
Coastal and Marine Ecosystems Unit (CMEU) of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).
Conchological Society
Countryside Conservation Centre
Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre; Tullie House Museum
Department of Environment Food and Agriculture
Devon Biodiversity Records Centre
Doncaster MBC Local Environmental Records Centre
East Riding Council
EM Highways Services Ltd
Ephemeroptera/Plecoptera Recording Schemes
Essex Wildlife Trust Biological Records Centre
Field Studies Council
Gelechiid Recording Scheme
Greater Manchester Ecology Unit
Greenspace Information for Greater London
Highland Biological Recording Group
IOM Govt
IW Local Environmental Records Centre
Kent & Medway Biological Records Centre
Knotweed Control and About Wild Wales
Leicestershire and Rutland Environmental Records Centre
Lichfield District Council
London Natural History Society
Manx Biological Recording Partnership
Merseyside BioBank
Millipede Recording Scheme
NAFC Marine Centre
National Trust
National Trust for Scotland
Natural England
Natural Resources Wales
Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service
Norfolk County Council
Northumberland Wildlife Trust
Outer Hebrides Biological recording
Oxford University Museum of Natural History
People's Trust for Endangered Species
Powys & BBNP Environmental Record Centre Ltd
Pseudoscorpion Recording Scheme
Royal Horticultural Society
Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission plc
Scottish Natural Heritage
Shropshire Mammal Group
Sue Bell Ecology
Suffolk Biological Records Centre
Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre
Tachinid Recording Scheme
Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre
The Mammal Society
The Wildlife Information Centre (TWIC)
Tweed Ecology
UK Rare Breeding Birds Panel
University of Essex
University of Hertfordshire
Vegetation Survey & Assessment Ltd
Water management Consortium
WDC Shorewatch Programme
Woodland Trust
Yorkshire Naturalists Union

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