NBN Recorder Motivation Research – summary findings

In November 2015 Ben Brown opened our survey on recorders and their motivations, and the response rate since then has been overwhelming!

Thanks to the support of national schemes, LERCs and organisations across the board in promoting the survey – and especially to recorders themselves for their time and insight – we’ve received around 200 responses and 20 hours of interviews, with many more offering to be telephoned and submissions continuing to arrive into January. The resulting dataset holds value beyond Ben’s three-month internship, but (while we’re looking to enable continued study of the data), some headline findings can already be reported.


Survey respondents came from over 70 vice-counties, and recorded in over 130 across the British Isles.


They ranged from 18 to nearly 80 years old, having started recording anywhere from 0 to 70 years ago, and recorded 83 different species groups (grouped as per iRecord).


The range of backgrounds across the surveys and interviews was broad. Several held senior positions in organisations or schemes but others were recent starters.


When asked about their spare time activities, respondents rated biological recording as one of the most important things they did in their free time.


The responsibility towards the preservation of our biodiversity felt by the respondents was high. They regarded conservation of biodiversity as a personal and collective duty, felt fairly able and empowered to help, and undertook a range of activities in pursuit of this.


Another key finding was that respondents cared deeply about how the data they collected was used. From the interviews it becomes clear it is a concern that the data collected is used, i.e. it is as open and available for use as possible. Beyond occasional sensitive or persecuted sightings, interviewees viewed reservations around full openness as minor compared with failure to exploit the potential of the data for scientific or decision-making purposes.


While some were uncomfortable with datasets that hadn’t been checked and accepted on a per-record basis, others saw promise in technical developments such as automated pre-screening or tagging/filtering of records by confidence – assuming the systems responsible were reliable and effective.


Looking at the initial reasons for beginning to record, respondents’ informed Ben that their entry into recording was not typically influenced by friends and family, and opinion was divided as to whether organisations should set up more opportunities to interact. The social aspect of biological recording was reported to be an important factor contributing to people’s enjoyment of the activity. Most had made new friends via recording, and of those channels for communication with organisations which people did not have but wanted, social media and face-to-face communication scored highest.


We thank Ben for all of his hard work, and for these fascinating findings. We are also indebted to all of the interview and survey respondents who have contributed to Ben’s research.


We anticipate continuing with Ben’s research to further analyse the data collected and to fully realise the potential of this valuable dataset.  If you know of anyone who may be interested in continuing to build on Ben’s findings please do contact the NBN Secretariat (support@nbn.org.uk)


Ben’s full report  Recorder Motivations – Preliminary Results is available as a PDF

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