Observations from iSpot making their way directly into the NBN atlas

Much to my surprise, I noticed a while ago that one of my iSpot spider observations had appeared on the NBN atlas without me submitting it anywhere else (this one: Incredibly speedy spider | Observation | UK and Ireland | iSpot Nature). I’d only identified it to genus, in fact, because it needed dissecting to be sure of species. I then heard (maybe at the NBN conference?) that there was some sort of trial of pulling selected data through from iSpot to NBN. Is there any more information about this, and how it works? It would be nice to be notified if observations do get pulled through, but I don’t know if there’s a way of doing that. I also wondered about duplication, because I often put up things I’m not certain about on iSpot, and then submit them to iRecord once I get confirmation/correction. So in that case, there’s the potential for duplicate records.

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I now see that there are 100 observations in the NBN atlas from iSpot, all pulled through over a few days in May 2022: Search: Data provider: iSpot | Occurrence records | NBN Atlas
A quick check doesn’t tell me how these have been selected (e.g. there are 19 records for 9th May, I think, but many more than this posted on 9th May on iSpot).
It would be great to know more about this trial and what the outcomes were.

Quite an interesting find you’ve made, Sarah! None of mine are there. I’ve been looking through a few.

I thought the photos we post remain our copyright.

If that is not the case, as you seem to be reporting here. NBN should be informed of the ispot protocol.
Adding a Copyright statement should not be needed.

I don’t think copyright of photos is an issue, fortunately. NBN doesn’t pull the photos across, just the essential detail of the record. It does link to the iSpot observation but that takes you back to the original post.

Intriguing. I did a search on ‘Surreybirder’ and found this one: https://records.nbnatlas.org/occurrences/d9ffd298-6b46-45f3-9b2a-ad6ad52ba347
It’s a fairly meaningless record of a ringed plover in Cornwall. It is unverified, and ringed plover is a common species in Cornwall. So I don’t think it adds a lot to the knowledge base.
But it does raise the questions that Sarah has already raised!
This is the original iSpot observation: old one | Observation | UK and Ireland | iSpot Nature

I see “Thistle” has a few too. I’m rather surprised that records have been accepted without a properly named recorder. Perhaps I should change my iSpot screen name (which is, in any case, only one click away from revealing my real name.)
Moderators: what do you think? Should we be following the lead of The Times and allowing only real name contributions on-line?

Records get pulled through from iNaturalist to iRecord without always having the real name of the recorder and I’ve always been a bit surprised by that too. Perhaps it’s felt to be more important that the verifier gives their full name so that it’s obvious that they are authentic. This trial of data flowing direct to NBN from iSpot might just have been a one-off, in which case there would be no need for any of us to change our profiles on iSpot, although it might be more of an issue if this is going to happen regularly.

One of the issues is that I wouldn’t submit records to iRecord or any of the bird databases under the name of ‘Surreybirder’, so there would be a real possibility of duplicated records. But perhaps that doesn’t really matter if the species appears to be reported by two different observers at the same place on the same date?

Sorry if I’m becoming a bit carried away on this subject, but I found it interesting to search the NBN atlas to see what other records of mine were in there.
The place to start is: Search for records | NBN Atlas
(Incidentally, I see now that ‘human observation’ makes sense in that context - it means as opposed to ‘fossil record’, ‘preserved specimen’ etc.)
At first sight, I seem to have 77,604 records!
But I see that putting in ‘Kenneth Noble’ (in quote marks) reduces this to a mere 120. That is a bit mystifying as I’ve certainly put well over a thousand into iRecord. (I suspect that a lot of records get entered under the name of the verifier? But even that doesn’t seem to make much sense as a lot of my Odonata records are there and they have been verified by our CR.)

Will look into this issue of iSpot observations going onto NBN atlas further. If it is relatively recent records then there was a trial set sent in preparation for much larger upload. There have been some minor data anomolies that I have been trying to track down but has taken much longer than anticipated and been busy with other things.
NBN were also about to implement a new system to track down duplicates when we were looking at uploading ispot data in the autumn. Not sure if this is in place now.
Photos remain copyright of the author, there is no change in that, all terms and conditions should remain the same as stated in the ispot terms and conditions page link shown at the bottom of each page on ispot.

I have a more general question - showing my ignorance about wildlife recording in general. As I understand it, NBN is a charity that runs a database which aims to collect wildlife records and make them available to the public (except for some protected data of vulnerable species).
Looking at iRecord, it hosts recording schemes that share records with NBN. But the list of organisations that are part of that scheme seems patchy, at best. See: https://irecord.org.uk/nbn-sharing
So my questions are:
a) what happens to records that are not part of one of those listed schemes? (For example, the Surrey Bird Club must have at least a million records.) And I can see no obvious route for Surrey Lepidoptera records to reach the NBN.
b) Is there any ‘official’ (i.e. government-backed record vault, whether publicly available or not)?
c) Are there any other national databases of wildlife records that cover multiple orders of living organisms?

Good questions. I’m not very well at the moment, so brain not working well enough to write a long reply, but basically I think NBN aims to be (but is not yet) the central repository of all biological records in the UK. Most but not all recording schemes feed in data. Lepidoptera seems an obvious gap for many vice counties - I am not sure why. Hopefully MikeD can elaborate.

Hope you feel better soon!

As several of us have pointed out before, observations going straight from iSpot to NBN Atlas is very scary. I recently submitted some beetle records to my local records centre (not via iSpot) and the standard of acceptance was high in that the obs were referred to an acknowledged expert and when the appointed expert queried some of the more interesting obs I had to provide photographic evidence. I am not sure if any of that is happening here.

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The same could be said about records going from iNaturalist to NBN? The ‘verifiers’ are self-appointed experts, as far as I understand it.

I don’t think NBN has any systematic verification process. You have to bear in mind the datasets on NBN are of differing quality, and you can exclude datasets from your search if you feel they don’t meet your standards. The closest NBN gets to verification is, if you spot what looks like an error, you can flag the record and say what you suspect is wrong. The owner of the dataset is supposed to then deal with the issue.

Yes, so NBN accepts data from “approved sources” presumably under the assumption that all these sources have adequate verification processes, but as you suggest these processes are likely to vary considerably from source to source.

But the records on NBN don’t have photos (as far as I can see) so it makes it far harder to query one which ‘looks like an error’.
Obviously, if a sooty oystercatcher is reported in Surrey, you might query it - but there are all sorts of scarce species that might occur in Surrey (I’ve occasionally found one myself).

No, but the idea that biological records should be backed up by a photo is fairly new, maybe 20 years. And most biological records are not backed up by photos or specimens. If you go out with a botanical recording group, they don’t take photos of everything.

The system of biological recording used to rely on personal contacts between the recorder and the verifier. When I began recording water beetles, they all went to Garth Foster, the national recording scheme organiser. Gradually I learnt how to identify them, and hopefully to know when I needed a second opinion; and Garth came to trust I could record them without him seeing the specimens. Most biological recording ran on the same lines. The really popular groups generated too many records for a national scheme organiser to cope with (flowers, birds, butterflies, moths, and later dragonflies) so those recording schemes developed a network of county verifiers.

It is only recently that everyone with a smartphone has become a biological recorder and it is OK, even encouraged, that people submit unidentifiable photos with guessed identifications and inaccurate location details under a pseudonym, on the grounds that it is more important to encourage people to look at their surroundings than to generate reliable records; and so long as the anonymous recorder’s equally anonymous mate says they agree with the identification, the record is considered good enough to go to an international dataset (it is iNaturalist and GBIF I am referring to here). To excuse the lack of quality control, we are now told it is up to the user of the data to ensure they are of sufficient quality for their purpose. Graham Healey describes this as scary. I’d say depressing. I think the system is broken. There are still hundreds of competent naturalists generating reliable records for the good of the environment and I don’t want to belittle them. It is the organisations collating the data which are at fault.