We hope that the topics on this page address many of the common queries about Members' Access to the BSBI Database (DDb). We'll revise the entries here if further issues come to light. If you have other questions or concerns not covered here please contact Lynne Farrell.

Frequently Asked Questions about Members' Access to the BSBI Database

We believe that a more open access to records can bring substantial benefits in terms of public engagement, facilitation of high-quality survey work and research and the protection of vulnerable sites. We hope the access changes can strengthen local groups, encourage member-led research and provide greater understanding of how BSBI uses records that have been contributed by members.

In making this major decision there has been widespread debate within BSBI over the past two years by the Recording & Research committee, Council and by the trustees. County recorders were represented on all of those bodies and we have modified our plans based on the feedback we received. Having consulted VCRs on related data sharing proposals in the past, we felt that the diverse views of county recorders were well understood and could be represented and accommodated by the committees working on this project.

Most sensitive records will be of species on the vulnerable list, and we would hope that shouldn't leave too many to be marked as sensitive locally. In Scotland after a similar exercise, before making all Scottish records available on the NBN, only 167 records are so marked and a similar pilot exercise with 14 English counties resulted in flagging of only a handful of records. The new proposed launch date in July allows a further three months. We are happy to offer help and advice on marking sensitive records.

County Recorders have full discretion over the choice of which records for their county need to be blurred. It may be best to focus on sites or taxa that might be put at risk if details were made more public. For example, you might assess whether excessive numbers of people might visit or if plants might be vulnerable to damage. It's worth noting that divulging the location of rare taxa does not necessarily put them at risk (and the reverse is sometimes true) - many counties publish Rare Plant Registers, detailing the exact sites for many rarities. Sites that are widely known to the interested public are certainly not worth disguising. The national list of sensitive taxa is likely to already cover many of the taxa that you might wish to protect. You might also wish to blur records from private land to comply with agreements made with the land owner.

Yes, it can be difficult to identify exhaustively which records are from sites that need to remain confidential. We hope that best-effort attempts based on grid-squares and broad site name searches should satisfy the spirit of any agreements with landowners.

Existing database users will continue to enjoy their existing level of access. Their view of records (including recorder names) will not be affected in any way by these changes. By default, regular BSBI members will be offered a new lower tier of access, where recorder names and sensitive occurrences are blurred.

For privileged users, the records that would be blurred for lower access tiers are fully visible but flagged as "obscurity set for less-privileged users" in the "Records" column, marked with obscured record symbol.

This issue had become a major obstacle to the overall aim of allowing increased access to data and so, after much debate, a compromise was needed to allow progress. Recorder names are a key part of occurrence records and will remain visible to users who need access to full details.

Members' Access only allows viewing of records. Editing, validation or making any other changes would not be possible. User who noticed mistakes that needed correction would be asked to contact their county recorder or BSBI staff.

Yes, this will continue exactly as before.

Yes, members will be allowed to download subsets of data for analysis offline, however they would not be allowed to incorporate records into their own database, or to pass-on or publish records. We're confident that the large majority of BSBI members will behave responsibly, but we will monitor use of the database and take action against anyone who abuses their privileges. Access is allowed to members for personal use only.

The access that we plan to provide to members will be subject to strict constraints - only personal use would be permitted. Professional data users would be expected to continue to access data through the established channels - usually via a local record centre. Many consultants already have access to the database in their roles as VCR, taxon referee or actively contributing BSBI member, but, as professionals who are used to working according to specific access and usage constraints, are able to separate their personal and professional use of BSBI's data. In any case, the blurring of many vulnerable occurrences would severely impair the usefulness of member-level access as a data source for site surveys.

We will make it very clear to members when they register that no right of access to view a site is implied and that many records are from private land or in areas that are otherwise off-limits (e.g., military ranges or parts of nature reserves where public access is restricted). We are confident that the large majority of BSBI members will behave responsibly, but we'll monitor closely and take action if problems come to light.

This was an oversight which has now been remedied - we'll use separate lists of sensitive taxa for Britain and Ireland.