Matt Davies, GiGL’s Data Manager, on how GiGL keeps track of your data, and identifies the holes in that data
Metadata is data about data – it describes what is in a dataset, how it was created, the location to which data relates, and who to contact for access to that data. The GiGL metadatabase stores information from several thousand of London’s biological surveys including almost a thousand surveys from Natural England’s London office, primarily relating to sites of special scientific interest, several hundred surveys undertaken by London Wildlife Trust on its reserves, environmental impact assessments carried out by London boroughs or consultants, and ad-hoc surveys conducted by volunteer groups. It is fast becoming a substantial resource.
The metadatabase is an essential tool in managing such a variety of information. It has been developed to not only be quick and easy to use, but also to be in line with the National Biodiversity Network’s metadata standard, enabling us to share the information with local, regional, national and even international organisations.
The data it contains fall into 3 main categories:
1. General overview
- Survey Originator. The person or organisation having primary responsibility for the intellectual content of the resource.
- Start and end dates.
- Update frequency. How often the survey is repeated.
- Data format.Whether it originated as a database, spreadsheet or paper report.
- An estimate of the number of species or biotope records in the survey, and whether there are constraints on access or use of the survey data.
- Keywords.These may relate to the species or taxonomic group, the biotope, or the location on which the survey focuses.
- The name of the site or area where the survey took place.
- The geographic location.
- The name or title of the person to contact about the survey information, their organisational address and other contacts.
GiGL’s metadatabase is useful both internally and to our partners – ensuring that the reports they receive from us are complete and accurate. With around 40 partner organisations and many other groups and individuals providing data, it is increasingly possible that two people might give us the same report from which to extract records. The metadatabase helps ensure that we do not import the same data twice – saving time and eliminating duplicate information. ‘Gap analysis’ – identifying holes in the data’s taxonomic and geographic coverage – helps prioritise future surveys, to target effort and funding, and to decide from which reports data should be captured first.
What GiGL can do for your metadata
Do you have a cupboard or desk draw full of reports but not know what they contain? Cataloguing that information could help your organisation work more efficiently – making all staff aware of the information resource available. GiGL can undertake this task for partner organisations. Under our service level agreement with Natural England, we catalogued nearly 1,000 reports. Natural England staff can now search the catalogue from their own computer.
If you would like a copy of the database, or if you would like GiGL to help catalogue your surveys, please get in touch.