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the GiGLer

The newsletter of Greenspace Information of Greater London CIC

The only way is up

Matt Davies, GiGL Data Manager, on the benefits of our latest software upgrade.

After considerable effort to install, accurately migrate data and develop the custom reporting we need for our day-to-day work, our Recorder 6 database is now up and running.

Having reached the one million record milestone, the limit for the old Access-based system, an upgrade was essential. By conducting rigorous quality assurance and control throughout the upgrade process, we were able to improve data integrity while data were transferred, and to speed up our reporting mechanisms.

Recorder 6 is still based on the same well-documented, open and accessible NBN data model, but has a SQL-server platform, which allows us to store an almost infinite number of records. It is also more robust and secure, meaning there is even less chance of database corruptions.

Recorder 6 includes improved data capture and reporting tools, which will benefit GiGL and our partners in a number of ways. GiGL are accustomed to receiving data in various formats – paper reports, Excel spreadsheets, text files, custom databases and more. Until now, we’ve either had to manipulate these to a particular Excel format that would allow us to upload via an import wizard, or laboriously re-enter each record. While the new import wizard doesn’t do all the work for us, it does accept a wider range of formats, which should make things a bit easier. It also remembers matches to the inbuilt species dictionaries, meaning that future imports from the same source will be much faster and easier.

The first improvement that GiGL partners are likely to notice is the new ’spatial reference qualifier’ added to the data exchange information.This is a ‘health warning’ that indicates the accuracy of the original grid reference. For example, a six-figure grid reference (such as TQ123456) is accurate to 100m, while a four-figure grid reference (such as TQ1234) is accurate to only 1,000m.

These accuracy flags are the first of many improvements we will be making to our reporting systems. Future improvements are planned to take advantage of the fact that SQL server is spatially enabled and much more powerful than Access (because it runs queries directly on the server).These will include a flag to indicate data validation status, greater automation of quarterly data exchanges – possibly meaning we could run exchanges every month if there is sufficient demand – together with more regular data uploads to the NBN Gateway.The migration to Recorder 6 appears to be one small step for GiGL, one giant leap for biological recording in London!

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