Verification: what, who and why

What is verification?

The generally accepted definition of verification for biological records is “ensuring the accuracy of the identification of the things being recorded” as opposed to the concept of validation: “carrying out standardised, often automated checks on the ‘completeness’, accuracy of transmission and validity of the content of a record” (James, T. 2011. Improving Wildlife Data Quality [pdf]. National Biodiversity Network). However, verification and validation are linked and verifiers will generally assess both the likelihood of the species identification for a given record, and the record’s general level of precision and accuracy (including the record’s location data and other details) and the extent of supporting evidence that has been provided for it.

There are two levels of terms that are used within iRecord to show the status of records:

iRecord verification status terms
Verification level 1 Verification level 2
Accepted Correct
  Considered correct
Not accepted Unable to verify
  Incorrect
Unconfirmed Plausible
  Not reviewed

Within iRecord, newly added records are initally categorised as "Unconfirmed: Not reviewed", and are then flagged with one of the other terms once a verifier has reviewed them. Some verifiers use just the level 1 terms, but many use the level 2 to provide more information.

Explanation of terms for verification status 1:

  • Accepted: The record is accepted as meeting the standard required for inclusion by the recording scheme or project in question
  • Not accepted: The record is NOT accepted as meeting the standard required for inclusion
  • Unconfirmed: The record is in the system but has either not been looked at, or a verification decision not yet been reached

Explanation of terms for verification status 2:

  • Correct: The verifier is able to confirm that the species has been identified correctly, usually on the basis of photo/s within iRecord (or specimen/s outside iRecord)
  • Considered correct: The verifier has not seen photo/s or specimen/s but has a high degree of confidence that the record is likely to be correct, based on difficulty of ID, date, location and recorder skills/experience etc.
  • Unable to verify: The verifier has a high degree of confidence that the record is likely to be incorrect based on difficulty of ID, date, location and recorder skills/experience (and where no photo/s or specimen/s are available); or photos are available but do not show enough detail to confirm the identification; and/or the record is not sufficiently well documented to confirm (e.g. location is vague)
  • Incorrect: The verifier is able to confirm that the species has not been identified correctly, or the record is erroneous in other respects, on the basis of photo/s or specimen/s, or on information from the recorder
  • Plausible: The record is plausible based on species, date and location, but there is not enough supporting evidence for the possibility of misidentification to be ruled out, and the record remains within the "Unconfirmed" category
  • Not reviewed: The record is in the system but has either not been looked at, or a verification decision not yet been reached (all records start off in this category)

Who are the verifiers?

Nearly all the verifiers on iRecord are expert volunteers working on behalf of the national recording schemes. The larger recording schemes often have teams of "county recorders" who are the verifiers for their county or region, while the smaller schemes may have just one or a few experts for the whole country. These expert volunteers play a vital role in ensuring that biological records are of a high quality, and are suitable for use in conservation, planning and research.

Why haven't all my records been verified?

An increasingly large proportion of records on iRecord are being checked by recording scheme verifiers, but we do not have active verifiers for all species groups and for all geographical areas, and most people find that some of their records remain unverified for long periods of time.

We understand the disappointment that people feel when their records don't get verified. As explained above, verification is carried out by volunteer experts, and we are enormously grateful to the people that do this. The number of verifiers on iRecord is increasing, but we recognise that not all recording schemes have the time or inclination to get involved.

There are a number of reasons why records may not receive prompt verification on iRecord, including:

  • there may not (yet) be a recording scheme scheme that covers the species group in question
  • there is a scheme but it is not active on iRecord
  • there is a scheme and it is active but it is only able to verify data in batches once or twice a year

Even where there isn't an active scheme carrying out verification, there are still good reasons for adding records to iRecord: once added they are safely stored by the Biological Records Centre and will be available to a recording scheme in future, and all records added directly to iRecord are immediately available to local environmental records centres even if unverified (with suitable caveats).

Also, iRecord provides a free-to-use biological recording package, with standard species lists, map interface for grid references etc., from which you can download your own records as spreadsheets, so it is a useful resource for recorders even without the added benefits of verification. Downloaded spreadsheets can be passed on to recording schemes who aren't active on iRecord. (You can download your records by going to the "Explore" menu and choosing "Download".)