Automatic record checks within iRecord

Record cleaner rules

iRecord uses a system of automatic checks on records as they are entered. These are intended to help recorders understand which records might need additional evidence to support them, and to help verifiers pick out records that may need a closer look before confirming.

The automatic checks are based on sets of "rules" that cover three different areas:

  • How hard a species is to identify (e.g. whether it can be easily recognised in the field, or whether it needs microscopic examination)
  • Whether the species has been recorded within its known distribution, or is being reported from a new area
  • Whether the species has been recorded from within its usual period of activity; this mostly applies to insects that have a restricted flight period, or birds that may be winter or summer visitors and would not be expected at other times of year

These rules were originally defined by national recording schemes, who drew up rules for the NBN Record Cleaner project, in partnership with BRC in many cases. In some cases the rules were compiled a long time ago, which means that they have become out-of-date for some species, either because more data is now available and we have a better idea of their range, or because the species has changed its range. Some sets of rules have been updated in recent years, and others are being revised.

In addition to these pre-defined rules, iRecord 'learns' new rules based on the verifiers' decisions. For instance, if a species is recorded several times in a new area, and those records are accepted, iRecord learns not to continue flagging the records as being "out of range" in that area.

Notifications and verification

If a record triggers one of these automated rules, the recorder will be sent a notification (unless they have opted not receive notifications) that the record has been flagged under one or more of the automatic checks. Records which fail the automated checks are not being automatically rejected. The rules are only there to highlight potentially unusual records, and the decisions over whether they can be verified is down to the human verifiers who check the records.

If for any reason you find that notifications about the automatic rulechecks are unhelpful or too frequent, you can switch off this particular type of notification - see Controlling automated email messages.

Future developments

One issue with the rules, especially for insects, is that they do not currently distinguish between life stages. Consequently, a record of a caterpillar may get flagged as being outside the flight period of the adult butterfly. We hope to improve the rules in future so that they are applied to the appropriate life stages.

Rules have not yet been created for all taxonomic groups and we hope to add to the list in future.

Many thanks to all the recording scheme representatives who have contributed to the development of the record cleaner rules over the years.