The NBN partnership collates biological records from many different sources, using many different techniques. Inevitably the quality of this data can vary.

Some is contributed by novices just starting out with an interest in watching wildlife, some is contributed by internationally recognised experts.

Biological records are used in many ways, which can lead to significant outcomes, for example in research, conservation, policy work and development control. In order to ensure that data are used appropriately we need to know about the quality of the data: has it been checked, and if so how and by whom?

Verification and validation are key steps to recording, sharing and using biodiversity data.

The difference between verification and validation are that verification ensures the accuracy of the species identification, and validation is a standardised, often automated check on other aspects of the record (the ‘who’, ‘where’ and ‘when’).

Verification is carried out by expert volunteer verifiers. The most common route for verification of records entered online is through the iRecord verification system, however verifiers will also work closely with Local Environmental Record Centres and other NBN data partners to verify their data.   Verifiers look at all aspects of the record including its geographic location, its rarity, and common identification errors, and may contact the supplier of the record in order to establish more details of the record if it is an exception in its normal temporal or geographic range, or if it is hard to correctly identify. If the verifier contacts the recorder, they are not necessarily assuming that the record has been incorrectly identified, but are ensuring that all records submitted are of a high standard, by requesting more information about the record.

Verification and the NBN Strategy

An NBN strategic priority is to grow our capacity and capability to record and collect high quality biological data and verification plays an integral part in this. A working group will be developing a UK Verification Network, building on the current network within iRecord to ensure we have a fully integrated and accurate verification system across biological recording and aggregation networks.

The Data Quality and Verification working group will be responsible for guiding the NBN in carrying out the following actions over the five year timespan of the NBN’s current Strategy.

  • 1A.1  Increase verification capacity through establishment of a UK Verification Network to share best practice, celebrate success and recruit
  • 1A.6  Maintain and improve NBN Record Cleaner rule sets and identify quality of records across all NBN systems
  • 1E.4  Establish taxonomic group mentoring schemes
  • 3A.3  Attract new generations of biological recorders and motivate to increase recording and share data (with a particular emphasis on succession for verification in the future)

You can find out more about this working group here