Concerns about Data Sharing

Data ownership, how and when to share data, the cost associated with re-formatting data/records. These are just some of the concerns consultants cite when considering sharing data with local records centres. Here are some of the more common issues cited by consultants as impediments to data sharing and some possible solutions for you to consider.

Issue:”We do not own the data and, as such, we cannot provide it to you.”


The issue of data ownership can be a confusing one.

In an article written for the IEEM (now CIEEM) bulletin, ‘In Practice’ (Number 70, December 2010), Cofnod – North Wales Environmental Information Service’s Manager, Roy Tapping, deftly addresses the issue of data ownership. As a well-held principle of copyright law, the owner of data is generally the one who created it and not the one who paid for its collection. There are exceptions, notably, when a developer asserts their ownership over the data in their contract with the consultant.

LRCs believe that the inclusion of a clause in the contract between you and your client would clear the way for data sharing. It could be worded something like the following:

“The data gathered under this contract will be made available for conservation, planning and research purposes 6 months after the completion of the contract, in accordance with the IEEM code of conduct and the UK Location Strategy and in compliance with the LRC’s published policies and procedures – unless the client contacts the LRC in writing to advise them of reasons why the data may not be shared.”

Issue: “It’s too time-consuming and costs too much for us to format and send you our data”


It is clear that mobilising data from as many sources as possible is a central concern for all LRCs. What’s more, we understand how it may need to be re-formatted for the purposes of preparing it for use within our product and service offerings. LRCs can provide you with a very simple Excel spreadsheet to be downloaded and emailed back to us. Alternatively, the spreadsheet could be incorporated into your workflow early in the survey process. See a sample spreadsheet here.

Issue: “Why pay for a LRC’s time when the NBN Atlas provides free access to the necessary datasets”


The National Biodiversity Network is a collaborative endeavour promoted by the NBN Trust, representing UK government agencies and non-government organisations, that seeks to advocate and establish agreed standards for the collection, collation and exchange of biodiversity data and improved public access to them. Within the NBN, biodiversity data is held by custodians including local record centres, national voluntary recording schemes and national government agencies [1].

LRCs play a vital role in this national partnership by supporting and guiding local volunteer recording effort, mobilising quality assured data to the NBN Atlas and ensuring that biodiversity data from a range of sources are used to inform local decision making. Local Records Centres are run on a not-for-profit basis and rely on income from data provision services to fund their operating costs. It is therefore crucial that all local data users contribute to maintaining the services provided by Local Records Centres, enabling LRCs to continue to perform their key role within the NBN.

While the NBN Atlas provides access to certain datasets and these can often be precise enough to inform planning decisions, (they) should only be seen as complementing data available from local sources such as Local Record Centres. [2]

Your Local Records Centre can provide access to high resolution detailed species records, as well as habitat data and information on statutory and non-statutory sites. Most importantly, LRCs have the local knowledge to provide contextual information and interpretation services if required.

What’s more, the NBN Atlas Terms of Use prohibit commercial use of data from their website without written permission from the data providers. Please click to view their Terms of Use.



[1] Planning for Biodiversity and Geological Conservation – A Guide to Good Practice, p8

[2] Planning for Biodiversity and Geological Conservation – A Guide to Good Practice, p8-9