NatureScot is delighted to publish a report which reveals recommendations from a stakeholder review to make marine species and habitat data in Scotland more available and accessible. This will help us make better informed decisions for marine conservation.
This review was commissioned for Scottish marine biodiversity data as an adjunct to the original SBIF Review for terrestrial and freshwater data. The aim was to explore and determine limitations to the existing infrastructure, through engagement with key stakeholders.
High quality, current and accessible marine species and habitat data are essential to support marine environmental policy and planning decisions. Achieving greater exchange and interoperability of data within the marine sector will help support the transformation required to meet the ambitious commitments set by Scottish Government to reach Net Zero-emissions by 2045 and tackle both the climate emergency and biodiversity loss.
A large amount of Scottish marine biodiversity data flows into the Scottish and wider UK infrastructures (e.g., databases, repositories, portals, and the Marine Environmental Data and Information Network (MEDIN)) at varying levels of efficiency; ranging from well-established automated workflows to ad-hoc or non-automatic workflows, depending on the biodiversity receptor (mammals; benthic; birds; fish) in question and the organisations contributing the data. Difficulties in identifying, accessing and using marine biodiversity data persist; it is widely recognised that current data flows could be simplified and that there are still barriers to be overcome with data sharing, spatial resolution and coverage. The existing framework and mechanisms to mobilise and access the wide range of existing marine biodiversity datasets can be labour intensive and inefficient.
A key strength of the established marine data flow and systems is the ability to support the large volume of species and habitat data that are recorded and shared by Government bodies, but there is a widespread lack of clarity regarding roles, responsibilities and processes. Historical under-funding is a contributory factor, which has also limited capacity to capitalise on new infrastructure and advances in technology (e.g. cloud-based systems and widespread use of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)). The lack of dedicated resource and skills within the existing infrastructure for efficient provision and management of commercial and third sector (NGO and citizen science) data was found to be an issue, combined with cultural and behavioural barriers to data sharing, preventing this lineage of data being easily and fully incorporated into the marine evidence base.
Relatively large quantities of data were also found to be still stored locally and not fully incorporated into the data flow network. Gaps in data availability, in part, are a result of a combination of data not being properly shared, organised or due to resource driven workflow time-lags. Committed investment into skills resource and data infrastructures now will lead to long-term impact and savings (time and money) in the future, by creating more streamlined data workflows and accessible and reusable biodiversity data.
25 high-level recommendations under 6 themes, prioritised based on their impact or value and the effort or investment required to complete, aim to address these barriers:
- Theme 1: Continued engagement with key stakeholders.
- Theme 2: Clarifying and streamlining data flows.
- Theme 3: Improving the quality of existing data management.
- Theme 4: Investing in infrastructure and resource (people skills and funding).
- Theme 5: Improving existing and creating new data infrastructure.
- Theme 6: Simplifying existing and creating new guidance.
What could success look like?
- The appropriate data standards are identified and adopted at all stages
- Quality assurance and verification of data are fully supported
- Data are mobilised into affiliated repositories and portals and appropriately archived
- The amount of data and workflow duplication in the network is minimal
- Data are made available to end users in a timely manner
- Infrastructure and skills in data management are invested in and sustainably resourced
Next steps for the project will involve implementing the report’s recommendations and close working with key stakeholder organisations to improve the infrastructure and skills capacity available to support sharing of and access to marine biodiversity data.
You can read the full report here.