Data Quality

Data Quality

The state of qualitative or quantitative pieces of information. There are many definitions of data quality, but data is generally considered high quality if it is “fit for its intended uses in operations, decision making and planning”.

In addition to improving the resolution of the four basic components, the data quality can be improved by adding more information to the biological record. Generally, the greater the quality of the record, the greater the number of ways in which it can be used and analsyed.

  • At the lower end of the data quality spectrum you would have a basic biological record with the four basic components.
  • At the higher end of the data quality spectrum you would have a biological record with a wide variety of components, consisting of well categorised values.

Who, What, Where & When

The basic components of a biological record (c) Keiron Derek Brown

The information about the basic components (Who, What, Where and When) can be enhanced to tell us more about the biological record, as well as helping the those tasked with validating and verifying the data. For example:

  • Providing life stage, sex and/or abundance details can help us understand more about the population and distribution of a species.
  • Providing a locality (such as a site or street name) means that a grid reference can be cross-referenced.
  • Detailing the names of any individuals that have confirmed the species determination for you can help with the process of verifying the record.

Some further examples of information that could expand what we know about the Who, What, Where and When regarding a biological record are provided in the table below (basic components indicated in italics and additional components indicated in bold).

How & Why

The basic and enhanced components of a biological record (c) Keiron Derek Brown

In addition, we can also provide information that explains how the biological record was made and why the species is located at that specific site at that specific time. This isn’t essential for creating a record, but it can improve the quality of the record. For example:

  • Providing habitat, microhabitat, host plant and environmental conditions details can help us understand more about the ecology of a species.
  • Detailing the survey methods and effort can help us establish how representative a record is of local populations.

Some further examples of information that could expand what we know about the How and Why regarding a biological record are provided in the table below.

What information should be prioritised?

The list of things that can be recorded as part of a biological record is endless. The importance of any single component of a record will vary between species groups and depend on the focus of a given survey/project/study.

For example, if you were running a survey of garden birds, one of the things that you may ask participants to record is the food that was present on the bird table/feeder that any recorded birds were using.

It’s always worth checking with the National Recording Scheme or Society for whatever group the organism you are recording belongs to in order to find out which additional information is useful for that species group. A list of National Recording Schemes & Societies is available from the Biological Records Centre website.

Example Enhanced Biological Record

Let’s return to the example we used for a basic biological record “Jane Doe looks out of her kitchen window on 18th September 2016 and notices a hedgehog in her back garden on Darwin Close.”, and add in any additional information that was available to the recorder and relevant to this observation.

ComponentBasicEnhanced
WhoJane DoeVerified by The Mammal Society
WhatHedgehogAdult
Male
Single animal
WhereDarwin CloseNY01641419
VC70 Cumberland
When15/09/201621:00
Dark (after sunset)
HowChance sighting
Have taken mammal ID course
WhyGarden
Cat food put out for hedgehogs

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