The NBN Crowdsourcing Data Capture Summit

This one-day Summit will seek to kick-start collaborations to mobilise the National Biodiversity Network’s extensive undigitised data holdings using crowdsourcing platforms.

It will bring together interested parties who:

  • are already working in the field of crowdsourcing data capture,
  • hold datasets suitable for digitisation through this method,
  • have an interest in these data once mobilised,
  • have expressed an interest in being involved in delivering the NBN Strategic Action “Develop a UK strategy for mobilising historic survey data and secure resources for historic data digitisation and mobilisation (including crowdsourcing data capture)”. 

Where and when

Date: 25th September 2015
When: 09.30am (for a 10.00 start) – 16.00
Where: Kanaris Lecture Theatre, Manchester Museum (kindly sponsored by Manchester Museum)
Cost: Free

A series of presentations during the morning will raise awareness of the extent of the UK’s undigitised biological data holdings, outline the importance of these data and discuss why we are looking to crowdsource data capture initiatives to enable mobilisation.
Speed talks will introduce current initiatives, identifying what has worked well, what has failed in the past and how we may ensure quality of the records captured.
The afternoon will set out a strategy for collaboration to address “What needs to happen now?” 
Three workshops will look at: ?        Quality – Ensuring quality from crowdsource data capture projects
?        Engagement – How do we increase the number of people involved
?        Efficiency – Making citizen data capture more efficient (What’s holding us back?)

Speakers include:

  • Austin Mast, iDigBio
  • Steve Whitbread, Northamptonshire Biological Records Centre
  • Rachel Stroud, NBN Secretariat
  • Henry McGhie, Manchester Museum
  • Dave Martin, Atlas of Living Australia
  • Nick Isaac, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
  • Rob Cubey, Royal Botanical Gardens Edinburgh
  • Tom Humphrey, Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland
  • Kyle Copas, GBIF
  • Grant Miller, Zooniverse 
  • Laurence Livermore, Natural History Museum
  • David Gelsthorpe, NatSCA 
  • Martin Harvey, iRecord
  • Maarten Heerlien, Naturalis Biodiveristy Center

If you would like to attend the Summit, please RSVP by email (no later than 21st September) to the NBN Secretariat at:  You can also contact us at the same email address with any queries about the event. Click here if you would like to download the flyer.

We look forward to seeing you on Friday 25th September at Manchester Museum.

What is crowdsourcing?

Crowdsourcing is the process of engaging a group or ‘crowd’ of people, usually online to carry out a shared task.  In this instance we are referring to ‘outsourcing’ the digitisation of biological records to people across the UK and beyond.   Crowdsourcing websites are designed to be intuitive for anyone to use, regardless of their level of expertise and the process can be tightly controlled to ensure the satisfaction of all the contributors and the quality of the resulting datasets.

The extent of our undigitised data holdings

Across the UK, there are millions of biological records held  in recording cards, field notebooks, diaries, photographs, museum specimens, survey forms, maps and assorted other forms.  These formats are often unavailable, serving little purpose and are little valued as a result.    Yet they have huge potential as a resource for nature conservation, environmental decision making, education and research.
Digitisiation will not only preserve these records of the past – for which there will never be more – but enable them to be put to use in combination with other data and give access to our rich heritage of natural history, local and nationally.

Why look to crowdsourcing for data capture?

One of the major obstacles to digitisation has been the resources required.    Crowdsourcing is well recognised as an effective mechanism for attracting and facilitating voluntary support and has been successfully used to digitised data across the globe, as highlighted by initiatives such as: From the Page; Notes from Nature; Herbaria@Home; The Field Book Project; Smithsonian Transcript Project; and the Atlas of Living Australia’s DigiVol.
Selecting the right approach to suit volunteers and those seeking their help could well play a major part in realising the potential of all those historical observations.

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