This new report from the UK Government’s Geospatial Commission draws heavily on similar excellent work done in Scotland with the 2018 SBIF review. This dedicated report for England supports the government’s vision to put people at the heart of biodiversity policy making and improving our knowledge. The report outlines 14 recommendations to improve the species data landscape. These are focused on the four areas of Biodiversity Data Framework, Data Principles and Standards, Investment and Data Use. The benefits from uses of species data strongly outweigh the costs of the species data pathway. High quality, current and accessible species data are essential to underpin policy and land use planning towards sustainable outcomes for the environment and biodiversity.
The recommendations from the report include to “[M]andate the re-use of species data collected by consultants in transparent processes that support regulatory compliance, potentially through new regulation. This will reduce survey costs, improve professional standards and support environmental outcomes.”
Biodiversity Data Framework Recommendations
- Recognise the key components of the Biodiversity Data Framework as local data centres, National Schemes & Societies, UK-wide and marine data portals. Each should have a clearly defined role, enabling them to work together as a collaborative, connected community.
- Promote to key sectors the public good, efficiency and conservation benefits of collecting, sharing and using data through a clearly defined and recognised BDF.
- Maintain the local and taxon-specific biodiversity databases, with a greater emphasis on transparent data flows and data sharing via a UK data portal.
Data Principles and Standards Recommendations
- Base the generation, management, collation and sharing of species data on FAIR Data Principles – to make species data in England Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable throughout the species data network. These principles should be adopted in the BDF and should underpin all parts of the system.
- Develop and promote data standards throughout the BDF and the wider network of species data collectors and contributors. Particular emphasis should be on the data collection stage to ensure data meets its potential for use.
- Develop a system of certification of BDF processes to drive high common standards across the network and the adoption of the FAIR principles. This will aid clear data flow pathways and efficient interoperability between BDF nodes.
- Adopt a Data Sharing approach across the pathway, in which many end-users contribute to reasonable costs of data stewardship within the BDF and, where practicable, species data is accessible online.
- Invest in the BDF, from central government budgets, as part of a mixed public/ private sector funding model, recognising the essential role of accessibility to high quality species data as a public good to deliver environmental legislation and policy.
- Develop a verification protocol with key stakeholders in the verification process, which aligns to current and future verification requirements and technologies. The resources required to support implementation of the protocol should also be identified.
- Invest in building capacity for verification, through expert training and the use of new approaches such as automated assessment to support verification decisions.
- Invest in processes to capture and mobilise species data generated by research and high volume, novel recording methods that can be used to supply the BDF.
Data Use Recommendations
- Mandate the re-use of species data collected by consultants in transparent processes that support regulatory compliance, potentially through new regulation. This will reduce survey costs, improve professional standards and support environmental outcomes.
- Require proponents of development to certify that best available species data through the BDF have been accessed in the preparation of applications where there is risk of impact on biodiversity, potentially through new regulation. This will help ensure that existing and newly collected species data is equally available to project proponents, regulators and evaluators and will support environmental outcomes.
- Require organisations collecting data funded by public money to provide a plan for data collection and sharing, in accordance with FAIR data principles, before funds are received.