Maria Longley, GiGL Records Officer
Much as a delicious meal at a restaurant doesn’t just appear on your plate the moment you place your order with the waiter, our data search reports don’t just appear at a click of a button. Even before your chef works his magic, selecting just the right ingredients to compliment each other, those ingredients have to be grown, raised and harvested. So, what goes on behind the scenes at GiGL? What goes into creating the perfect data search recipe?
The data holdings that our reports tap into are dynamic and responsive to local changes. Part of our core work is, in partnership, to improve and increase the data that is available to the organisations and people who need this evidence base. The GiGL team attend meetings, talk to data providers, identify new datasets, actively facilitate greater levels of recording, and work with national organisations to make GiGL the ‘one-stop-shop’ of evidence to inform decision making. Having data in one location is an effective way of saving time for anyone who needs information from multiple sources.
Our ever-growing bank of species data is a testament to the fantastic work of recorders who want to see their records influencing decisions made about land management, conservation, and development. This data comes to us in many forms so another major behind the scenes job is preparing it to go into the database. This not only includes ensuring data meet current standards but also that they are verified and the validated by experts and that the data is uploaded to the National Biodiversity Network as agreed with the data providers.
Ensuring high standards is for the benefit of all users of our environmental data, not just users of the data search service.
As new datasets become available to the GiGL partnership, relevant ones are added to the data search reports. The most recent addition has been invasive species records which first made an appearance in April 2012. We are currently working on expanding habitat information by highlighting the condition of existing Biodiversity Action Plan habitats and suggesting the potential for creating new BAP habitat.
Regular reviews of the service have us grappling with questions about which species to include; how we can present data in keeping with our Accessing Data Policy; what new information will best inform people about the ecological value of a site; how much London-specific context to include; and so on. Some of these questions have been answered over the years through trial-and-error, conversations with data users, and national or international legal requirements. However, many of these are on-going conversations that are also shaped by the feedback we receive from data providers and users, by technical practicalities and by policy changes, and mean the reports are regularly looked at and revised.
All this work ensures that up-to-date and useful and relevant data is ready to be pulled into data search reports when that button is clicked.
Maria Longley has experience of the whole data cycle; from providing species records for Crane Park Island Local Nature Reserve in a previous job to having worked with partners and customers of the GiGL data search service for over four years.