Mary – thank you for communicating JNCC’s position on support for Recorder 6.
I thought I would share some information here regarding where the Local Environmental Record Centre (LERC) community is at, with respect to Recorder 6, in my capacity as Chair of the Association of Local Environmental Record Centres (ALERC).
A significant proportion of LERCs currently rely on Recorder 6 as one of their core data management systems. It is a key piece of software which enables LERCs to provide biodiversity information services to a wide range of different organisations including Local Authorities, many of whom use LERC services to inform the discharge of their section 40 duty under the NERC Act ‘to have regard to the purpose of conserving biodiversity’, particularly in a planning and development control context.
While other species data management solutions do exist, migrating from Recorder 6 to an alternative platform is a very major undertaking. As you rightly identify in your statement, Recorder 6 is a mature and stable software package which is capable of storing data in a highly structured form; many LERCs have integrated bespoke reporting systems with Recorder 6 which have been carefully designed to meet local biodiversity information requirements. The Recorder 6 dictionary updates are also a critical feature – ensuring that data managers across the NBN network can work from a single set of standard reference names and use these when sharing data, e.g. on the NBN Atlas. As such, many LERCs take the view that Recorder 6 remains their best option for managing biodiversity data.
March 2018 is not very far away, and many LERCs will be well advanced in their budget setting for 2018-19 with limited scope to accommodate additional budget pressures at this stage. ALERC very much hopes that the possibility of putting some transitional arrangements in place can be fully explored, in order to minimise disruption to Recorder 6 users, the important services they provide, and the functioning of the NBN Network as a whole.
My understanding is that, historically, LERCs have not played a major role in supporting Recorder 6 and I don’t think ALERC is currently represented on the Recorder 6 steering group? As major users of the software, there is an appetite within the LERC community to be more involved in supporting and setting the future direction for Recorder 6. We are keen to continue discussions with the NBN Trust, and JNCC, to look at how we can make that happen.
Earlier this year, mindful that support for Recorder 6 has been decreasing over recent years, the London & South East Record Centres (LaSER) decided to take the initiative and, following a LaSER meeting on 16 August 2017, Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre (SxBRC) and Greenspace Information for Greater London (GiGL) have commissioned Andy Foy to produce a ‘Recorder 6 Consultation’ to gather as much information as possible about who uses Recorder 6, how they use it, what they most like & dislike about it, and how it should be financially supported.
Andy Foy has been working with the ALERC Databases Group (including Ian Egerton and Steve Whitbread) to ensure this consultation is designed appropriately to engage with the whole LERC community and other Recorder 6 users. ALERC will be launching the consultation ahead of the NBN conference and ALERC Director Steve Whitbread, at the NBN conference, will be asking everyone who has an interest in Recorder 6 to please fill it in, so we have a comprehensive set of information which we can use to plan a way forward.
It is anticipated that this Recorder 6 consultation will be followed by a wider consultation (‘part 2’), taking a broader view on LERC’s current and future information management requirements – led by the ALERC Databases Group.
Clearly, JNCC’s decision to cease supporting Recorder 6 is not good news. But I hope we can continue to work together – JNCC, NBNT, ALERC and others in the NBN network – to find a way forward which enables Recorder 6 users to continue doing the important work that they do.
Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre | Manager
Association of Local Environmental Record Centres | Chair