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Topic: Rec6 Announcement: Existing support arrangements will end March 2018

The last few years have seen significant developments for the online recording of biological data. Across the NBN, the benefits of online recording, in comparison with traditional standalone desktop tools such as Recorder 6, have been recognised, and many have adopted such tools as part of core data management systems.

Within this same timeframe, core funding for the Recorder 6 package has been decreasing, owing to increasing software stability (ie fewer bug fixes), problem solving and knowledge sharing through the NBN forum, but also decreasing availability of funds to invest among the partners. In addition, risks have been growing around the package, and the partners have started investing staff time and financial contributions in online recording. Also in the last year, the open data initiative has renewed a focus on maximising data flows and making best use of open data.

It has now been decided that the existing arrangements for financial and administrative support for Recorder 6 will cease, as of March 2018.

The existing Recorder 6 partners are actively discussing options going forward for both the existing Recorder 6 package, and a possible online replacement, with the NBN Trust, and more information will be made available in due course.

The Recorder 6 code is available on Github (see link below) and further documentation will be made available soon.


Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Natural England and Natural Resources Wales
06 November 2017
Contact: recorder@ jncc.gov.uk
Github repository: https://github.com/jncc/recorder-6

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Re: Rec6 Announcement: Existing support arrangements will end March 2018

Thanks for the update Mary - having spoken to John in the past about this, some of the code for Recorder 6 couldn't be released as open source. Has this/will this change?

Charlie Barnes
Information Officer
Greater Lincolnshire Nature Partnership

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Re: Rec6 Announcement: Existing support arrangements will end March 2018

Morning Charlie - there are a number of proprietary addins which have not yet been added to the repository but I am following up on this and will let you know how I get on. Also to note that Recorder 6 requires a number of proprietary tools to build it so licences would need to be purchased for these by anyone wishing to develop it. We will provide details in the documentation pending for Github.

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Re: Rec6 Announcement: Existing support arrangements will end March 2018

This is very disappointing, and rather short notice. There must be a lot of users like us who have built their database work around Recorder 6 over the years, and who do not have the time or resources at the moment to transfer their records to another system or to implement a whole suite of new procedures based on online recording.   
You say that the existing partners are discussing the way forward and the rest of us will be told the outcome in due course. I don't know who these partners are, so can I ask who is involved in this, and whether there will be any opportunity for smaller (but long-standing) users like ourselves to get involved?
Janet

British Lichen Society

Janet Simkin
British Lichen Society

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Re: Rec6 Announcement: Existing support arrangements will end March 2018

I don't know how up to date this list of Recorder 6 steering group members is: http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/page-4822
Certainly the user group is out of date (and I don't think exists, you are one of the people listed Janet?) http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/page-4823

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Teresa Frost | Wetland Bird Survey National Organiser | BTO

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Re: Rec6 Announcement: Existing support arrangements will end March 2018

Well, so I am! It's been a long time since I've heard anything from the user group but perhaps this would be good time for it to reconvene.

Janet Simkin
British Lichen Society

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Re: Rec6 Announcement: Existing support arrangements will end March 2018

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.

Clare Blencowe
Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre | Manager
Association of Local Environmental Record Centres | Chair

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Re: Rec6 Announcement: Existing support arrangements will end March 2018

Thanks for this update, Clare. It is good to hear about the consultations you are planning, and especially that you will be opening at least the first part up to other users as well as the LERCs. Unfortunately we won't be represented at the NBN conference this year but we would welcome any opportunity to discuss future options with ALERC and other Recorder 6 users.

Janet Simkin
British Lichen Society

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Re: Rec6 Announcement: Existing support arrangements will end March 2018

Hi,

Just to expand on what Clare has said,  there will be a 2-part consultation.

Part 1 is most pressing, especially given the position Mary has outlined and will focus very much on Recorder 6. I'll be taking the opportunity to promote this (and Part 2) next week. It would be great for Andy to get a good number of responses back before Christmas.

Part 2 is more about meeting information needs and data handling beyond the next couple of years. Whilst prompted by discussions amongst the East of England LERC Group it will be very much about the needs of the whole spectrum of recorders, recording schemes, record centres and information users across the whole NBN Community, and the first step will be to seek views on exactly what it should cover and sign folk up to developing the consultation accordingly. (The conference would seem to provide an ideal opportunity for this).

Together the two exercises should provide useful information both about the ways in which Recorder 6 is valuable and to how many (in the UK at least), and what is seen to be important in the longer term.

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Re: Rec6 Announcement: Existing support arrangements will end March 2018

Just realised I should have said: "Andy Foy has been working with the ALERC Databases Group (including Ian *Carle* and Steve Whitbread) to ensure the Recorder 6 consultation is designed appropriately to engage with the whole LERC community and other Recorder 6 users." Apologies for any confusion.

Clare Blencowe
Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre | Manager
Association of Local Environmental Record Centres | Chair

11 (edited by DavidChun 08-11-2017 09:21:14)

Re: Rec6 Announcement: Existing support arrangements will end March 2018

Recorder 6 appealed to me because it offers a wide range of data capture possibilities oustide of the normal species recording. I have made extensive use of the Location features and Location Measurements and it has taken me 5 years to get the data to the point where it can be used, and recently a lot of investment in time on XML reports to be able to report on the data.  I don't think there is  any on line system capable of handling this information. There are very many features in R6 which as far as I know are not in any on line system. JNCC included these in R6, because I assume they were considered as important part of a complete biological recording system, yet there is no mention of the loss of the features in the announcement or any suggestion of  what users of these features should do now Recorder 6 is not being supported. How on earth can this be justified - how much will on line recording be benefiting financially by abandoning R6 support ? Surely R6 support should have continued until alternatives were actually agreed and in place.   Is it worth writing to my MP about this ill considered and poorly justified decision ? 

Dave

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Re: Rec6 Announcement: Existing support arrangements will end March 2018

I too have concerns regarding the imminent dropping of support for Recorder-6 and the stresses and strains this will put on most, if not all, LRCs.  I fully agree with David's points above.  However, I also wonder whether the seeming rush to move to online recording and database management is one which is actually feasible and financially possible for LRCs.  I doubt that all LRCs have Internet line speeds which would successfully accommodate such a move and especially so when data extractions are being run when large volumes of data need to be pushed up and down the line.  The cost of high speed connections and especially of large volume online storage could well see some LRCs unable to function and in danger of overstretching their budgets and financial capabilities.  This is assuming that some can even obtain the Internet line speeds which would be required.

The same arguments, to a lesser scale, may well be applicable to individual users, especially those 'power' users who can store over 1 million records and who may use the Recorder system for business reasons which, again, may require large volume data manipulation and movements.

I am unsure how all of this is going to affect LRCs across the Country but I am glad to read that they will be given the chance in consultation to voice their issues, arguments and concerns - I sincerely hope that these will be taken on board and given full weight.  Surely we cannot now see LRCs potentially disappearing from the recording landscape after so much hard-work has gone into getting them into place and working well over the last 20 odd years.

Steve J. McWilliam
www.rECOrd-LRC.co.uk
www.stevemcwilliam.co.uk/guitar/

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Re: Rec6 Announcement: Existing support arrangements will end March 2018

I’ve had concerns about the dropping of R6 support for some time, and I assume that extends to the cessation of the retainer which has enabled Mike/Sally/John to provide their excellent advice and technical know-how service to R6 users. I look forward to the consultation arrangements proposed. R6 currently serves our purposes at Doncaster LRC perfectly well and we have a bespoke data management and reporting system designed to work with and around R6 (agreed – the mapping in R6 is slow but we do use it). If we find ourselves in any way pressured into adopting an online system to replace R6, in order to keep abreast of dictionary and designation updates for instance, this could well raise business continuity issues with us, and an alternative, at least as comprehensive as we have now, has to be in place and fully tested before we make any move from R6 to whatever replaces it. We need all the present features now in R6 to be represented in any online system. Clare’s comments of 6/11 are especially comprehensive and to the point.
Anyway, if we’re talking about an “online recording system to replace R6”, what exactly are we talking about ? A web-based “front end”  in which case how will we handle our SQL database? If not what about database security? I’m sure that there will be quite a few questions to be answered.

Bob Marsh
Doncaster LRC
Coleoptera recorder for YNU

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Re: Rec6 Announcement: Existing support arrangements will end March 2018

The Recorder 6 Consultation is now open. You can find details on the 'Recorder 6 consultation' thread. (The forum won't let me post a link for some reason.)

The information gathered through this consultation will be vitally important in planning our next steps, so please encourage all the Recorder 6 users you know to respond by 15 December. Thanks!

Clare Blencowe
Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre | Manager
Association of Local Environmental Record Centres | Chair

15 (edited by stevemcbill 08-11-2017 17:46:12)

Re: Rec6 Announcement: Existing support arrangements will end March 2018

The link for the Consultation Form can be found here:  https://www.cognitoforms.com/SxBRC/Reco … nsultation

Steve

Steve J. McWilliam
www.rECOrd-LRC.co.uk
www.stevemcwilliam.co.uk/guitar/

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Re: Rec6 Announcement: Existing support arrangements will end March 2018

It's not clear how widely distributed this consultation exercise is. It's not on the ALERC forum so I guess LERCs are getting notified directly through an ALERC LERC mailing.
I've had an email from BRISC but they are nothing to do with the consultation.
So as an NSS I guess it's just chance that I found out about it (many thanks to BRISC). Precious few NSS are regulars on this Forum - one can discount this as the best means of notifying them.
With that same NSS hat on I'd like to express my thanks to ALERC for continuing with their determination to ensure continued support for R6, I'll do my best to get our 25 Diptera NSSs (well, the 9 of them that use R6) to support ALERC's efforts.
How widely has this consultation exercise been promoted? NSSs don't have a national coordinator and Andy Foy hasn't contacted me about my NSS. We'll be a lot slower to respond than LERCs, especially if it falls to me to complete it 10 times.

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Re: Rec6 Announcement: Existing support arrangements will end March 2018

Can ALL LERCs, NSS and registered purchasers of Recorder (surely JNCC and/or the authorised distributors of Recorder must have their contact details) be explicitly targeted with a request to complete the survey form ??

Steve

Steve J. McWilliam
www.rECOrd-LRC.co.uk
www.stevemcwilliam.co.uk/guitar/

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Re: Rec6 Announcement: Existing support arrangements will end March 2018

JNCC ceased keeping records of registered users a long time ago and I suspect no longer have the records.  I relied on JNCC to hold the registration details of all the copies I sold originally, but, kept details once JNCC gave up this function. I will do my best to inform the users of copies I have sold about the survey. Many of the original resellers have given up, so I expect will not have the records or be interested in helping.

Mike Weideli

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Re: Rec6 Announcement: Existing support arrangements will end March 2018

Thanks Mike.  Can the other resellers (inc. those who stopped) be asked for names and contact details - even if they are not interested in helping themselves they may be willing to hand over what they have.

Steve

Steve J. McWilliam
www.rECOrd-LRC.co.uk
www.stevemcwilliam.co.uk/guitar/

20 (edited by AndyMFoy 14-11-2017 10:53:06)

Re: Rec6 Announcement: Existing support arrangements will end March 2018

Darwyn wrote:

It's not clear how widely distributed this consultation exercise is. It's not on the ALERC forum so I guess LERCs are getting notified directly through an ALERC LERC mailing.

How widely has this consultation exercise been promoted? NSSs don't have a national coordinator and Andy Foy hasn't contacted me about my NSS. We'll be a lot slower to respond than LERCs, especially if it falls to me to complete it 10 times

Unfortunately, Darwyn, there is no magic list of contact details for all R6 users or all local recorders, national recorders, local recording schemes, national schemes and societies.  As you say, "NSSs don't have a national coordinator" so there is no simple way of contacting everyone ... I'm not an R6 reseller and certainly don't have a list of everyone across the UK that might be interested in the consultation!  However, the following methods have been/will be used to try and reach as many R6 users as possible:

  • All the R6 resellers (Mike, Sally, exeGesIS and Canto Information) and the BRC have been contacted and asked to share details of the consultation to any R6 users they hold contact details for

  • It has been posted on the NBN Forum here https://forums.nbn.org.uk/viewtopic.php?id=7047

  • It as been posted on the new ALERC forum on Knowledge Hub here https://khub.net/group/association-of-l … e/74090286

  • Steve Whitbread will be doing a short talk at the upcoming NBN Conference

  • The NBN has been asked to promote the consultation through their e-news

  • The NFBR has agreed to put a news item on their website

  • The NFBR will also be contacted about putting something on the NFBR Facebook page

  • It has been posted on The Wildlife Trusts intranet WildNet

I don't know how much wider would could have promoted the consultation, but if anyone has any ideas for how to reach more R6 users please share them here or use your own initiative.  I would also encourage everyone aware of the consultation to share the details with anyone else they think it would be of interest to.

The consultation was only launched 6 days ago and the deadline is still over 4 weeks away so there is still plenty to spread the word and submit your entries!

Andy Foy, Ecologist & IT consultant
Andy Foy Consulting

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Re: Rec6 Announcement: Existing support arrangements will end March 2018

Further to Andy's response, I have also asked ALERC Directors to disseminate information about the Recorder 6 consultation through the regional groups, so I hope this will ensure all LERCs will be made aware - even if they don't visit the online forums.

But basically - anything anyone can do to help spread the word will be much appreciated. Thanks for sharing it with the Dipterists Forum Darwyn.

Clare Blencowe
Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre | Manager
Association of Local Environmental Record Centres | Chair

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Re: Rec6 Announcement: Existing support arrangements will end March 2018

The decision to end support for Recorder is very disappointing - particularly as it comes at such short notice. I work for Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust and we use Recorder 6 to hold and manage species records for our nature reserves and other sites of interest in the two counties. Our database holds over 600000 taxon records derived from in house recording, local naturalists and county recorders - most of whom also supply the records to national recording schemes. We are not a local record centre and the records are mainly for internal use but we do provide records for other interested parties on request. Any decision to move over to on on-line recording scheme in place of Recorder would be of no use to us as we require a system to hold and manage our own data to support our conservation work. I am concerned that there is a lack of suitable alternatives to Recorder and have concerns about the work involved in migrating our database to a different recording software. Has anyone looked into the alternatives to Recorder?

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Re: Rec6 Announcement: Existing support arrangements will end March 2018

To contact NSSs, BRC maintains a full list of them at http://www.brc.ac.uk/recording-schemes
NBN's list of Data Partners at https://registry.nbnatlas.org/ also lists many, just those engaged with the Atlas though.
Both may have more comprehensive databases which I'm sure they'd be happy to provide for this task.