Nobody starts a biodiversity monitoring program because they love managing data. But these programs produce a constant stream of data, and managing and archiving those incoming data is an important part of managing a monitoring program. While many of our network partners have developed data management systems that are linked to web sites and allow management of historical data, other partners are at or beyond their capacity to support more volunteers. We have three initiatives to help all programs with data management.
DEVELOP A SHARED DATA STANDARD: One of our main goals is to develop a shared data standard so that our data are more comparable and follow strict metadata standards so that they can be easily reused and also will be formatted to be added to any large-scale appropriate repository. We plan to adapt the Bird Monitoring Data Exchange (developed by the Cornell Lab), an extension of DarwinCore, as a shared data standard between programs. By adapting this data standard, we will ensure that our data have maximum utility in perpetuity. We will ultimately be able to make sure appropriate data are able to be uploaded to the Global Biological Information Facility (GBIF) and that we are able to ultimately become (or join) a Member Node for DataONE, a project to provide access and long-term storage for all biodiversity and environmental data. We have also been working with the Map of Life to develop a data standard for programs, like ours, that collect "inventory" data. This refers to surveys that report all species seen during a survey event. This is an important distinction because traditional repositiories are geared toward observational data storage, where nothing about the protocols used or effort expended are known. This means that nothing can be inferred about absences, which is important information, especially to understand distributions.
SUPPORT DATA MANAGEMENT. We are a network of programs and each has different needs relative to data management. Several programs already have online data entry and management portals, but others, especially the regional BMNs (see Monitor Tracker), are struggling with old entry systems or are still using paper and Excel. This limits their ability to attract and support new volunteers. Indeed, many programs are at their capacity to manage and couldn't except new volunteers even if they exist. Our first big initiative, in partnership with the Butterflies and Moths Information Network, is to create a generic online entry system for regional transect programs. That system is in development now and we plan an April 2014 laurnch. This system will also include a "toolkit" for new programs hoping to start a new regional program. In addition to this project, we will continue to determine our communities data management needs and seek funds and resources to ensure each group has the data management support it needs. This frees up the groups to share the data they have (Goal 4: Share Data) and even to expand their network and collect more data (Goal 5: Expand Capacity)