Effective use of opportunistic data

Alongside the UK biodiversity monitoring programmes, there are abundant ad hoc biodiversity records collected and submitted to the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) by volunteer naturalists, or "citizen scientists". Due to non-systematic recording methods, these records are likely to have some level of bias. Various statistical methods have been applied to data in attempts to normalise it for comparative analyses. A recent study by Isaac et al (2014) from the Centre of Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) evaluates the various methods to determine which most effectively reduces the bias. JNCC have produced a summary paper for the work.

This work is significant in allowing existing opportunistic data records to be used with a clearer understanding of their biases. It means it is a real possibility to use the 100 million records from the NBN to confidently establish biodiversity trends. It can also help to inform guidelines for future data collection that will help to account for bias, such as encouraging the recording of sampling intensity.



Download the original open access paper from Wiley Online Library.

JNCC Summary Paper


Additional resources about citizen science

Environmental Citizen Science POST note

UKEOF report on Understanding Citizen Science and Environmemtal Monitoring

Biological Records Centre web pages on Citizen Science