Automatic record checks within iRecord

DRAFT - to be revised.

An increasing number of online recording websites are becoming linked to iRecord, generating a large volume of data from a widening community of recorders. To help recorders understand which records might need additional evidence, and to help verifiers flag up records that need a thorough check, automated validation and verification tools are built in to iRecord, based on the NBN Record Cleaner approach.

Some validation is applied at the data entry stage, so that records cannot be submitted unless the date and grid reference are in the correct format, and species names are selected from the UK Species Inventory to avoid spelling mistakes and to ensure consistency.

For records of species that have been given NBN Record Cleaner verification rules (developed by experts at national recording schemes) checks are carried out to highlight records which are outside the known geographical or seasonal range of the species. They are also integrated into the data entry forms to highlight records of species which are difficult to identify, as shown below.

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If a record triggers one of these automated rules, the recorder receives a message via their notifications page, with the option of viewing or editing the record or simply removing the message. The results of the automated verification checks are represented by icons in the right-hand column of the grid. Verifiers can filter data to find records which have failed these automated checks.

Records which fail the automated checks are not automatically rejected. Automated verification is a decision-support tool for highlighting unusual records, and human expertise remains essential in determining whether the record is acceptable. For some species groups the geographical and seasonal rules were based on data from some years ago, and species ranges and seasonality can change, making the rules out of date. The identification difficulty rules take no account of different life stages and other factors which may make the species easier or harder to identify. Rules have not yet been created for all taxonomic groups.