the GiGLer

The newsletter of Greenspace Information of Greater London CIC

Student Data Loans

Chloe Smith, GiGL, & Humberto Perotto-Baldivieso at Cranfield University

One of the lesser known uses for GiGL partnership data is in the field of research. Collectively, the species, habitats, open space and protected sites data held by GiGL represent a unique resource. Most recorders are aware that their data are used to inform the planning system, land management and conservation efforts. However, you may not be aware that many research projects are also supported by your primary data.

An advantage of GiGL’s not-for-profit business model is that we are able to make available selected information for researchers without charging for our time. This helps students on their way to completing their courses, but also promotes learning and discussion about our datasets and sometimes generates new data for the partnership.

Initially, students preparing their dissertation or thesis question contact us and provide an outline of their project and the kind of data they are looking for. We are able to advise if any of our data holdings are suitable and extract and deliver data products as appropriate. Sometimes we can suggest alternative or additional datasets. We can also outline caveats or considerations about available data, for example reminding researchers that species data come from multiple sources and are therefore not systematically collected, influencing analysis or interpretation of data.

Students acquire information by filling in and signing a data user agreement form. Though we provide our time for free, researchers are still required to uphold our terms of use for the partnership data. Data are only to be used by the researcher and only for the project they have outlined. Data must only be presented internally and not publically distributed on websites or elsewhere. These conditions mirror the standard agreement that all GiGL partnership data users and suppliers agree to.

In the last financial year, GiGL supported the work of 14 students or research groups from various academic institutions in the UK and abroad. The service is becoming increasingly popular. To date this year, we have already provided information or resources for 9 students, totaling over 9 hours work from GiGL staff: including consulting with researchers, preparing data or mapping and providing statements of support for funding.

Since 2010, GiGL has been providing data to MSc students at Cranfield University, supporting two successful thesis submissions. The most recent, entitled “Functional Diversity in Bird Assemblages” by Miguel Castillo and supervised by Humberto L. Perotto-Baldivieso has developed spatially-explicit methodologies to quantify the amount and spatial distribution of functional biodiversity of insectivorous birds in the Greater London area. The significant quantity of spatial data provided by GiGL helped Miguel overcome data limitations for his intensive data analysis project. Humberto expects that students on Cranfield’s new MSc in Integrated Landscape Ecology will also benefit from GiGL data.

We thought that researchers interested in GiGL data holdings would mainly come from ecological or natural sciences courses. However, the data have informed a wide variety of topics. In addition to conservation and biology students, we have worked with Masters students in ecological economics, sustainable development, Geographical Information Systems, environmental technology, Olympic regeneration, town and country planning, science journalism, design and environment and television production, and, PhDs in genetics, invasive species dispersal and sustainable roofing!

We are endlessly surprised by the uses for the GiGL partnership data, and encourage recorders to submit their data so it can continue to further academic research and learning.

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