Monday, 8 June 2009

Too much citizen science?

So I've just prepped a story for the webzine about the RSPB's new Make Your Nature Count survey. I published it with very mixed feelings. The RSPB is a fine institution, and do many worthy things. Over a million people (including me) see fit to part with their cash to support their good works. So why am I having a whine? Well - in my opinion with this particular survey they're treading on the toes of my good friends at the BTO.

The BTO runs a perfectly good year-round Garden Birdwatch survey. It has the great merit of being scientifically rigourous, and has recorded all sorts of wildlife for years and years. OK - so the RSPB has the clout to get several minutes airing on the Today programme, but why not use that to implore people to help the BTO out? Surely the RSPB doesn't see itself in competition with the BTO? By running its own survey, what does the RSPB hope to achieve? In my more cynical moments I'd say this was a shameless PR exercise off the back of SpringWatch, which will use a great deal of membership money that would have been better spent on habitat. I'm interested in your thoughts about this. Please post your comments.On a lighter note I spent a very merry weekend butterflying. Marsh and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries went very well - but the highlight for me was this very gorgeous Forester moth. Very twinkly.

7 comments:

Born Again Bird Watcher said...

Please forgive the ignorant question of a U.S. living Yank who, while a member of the RSPB, never is able to attend any of its events or partake in its activities; but doesn't the BTO reach a somewhat different audience than the more popularly-based RSPB?

BirdGuides said...

You're so right - they do. I just think it would have been more responsible of them to promote the extant scientific survey, or at least consult with the BTO and then collect the data in a way that the BTO could have made use of. If you're going to mobilise the nation, why not get as much out of it as possible?


I'm not saying they shouldn't have carried out the survey - just I feel they could have targeted it better.

Matt said...

Do you know if there was/wasn't any discussion with the BTO about this? They do seem to collaborate amicably on many other surveys and activities. Although I do share your cynicism.

Thing said...

I agree that it is shameless PR on the back of Springwatch (of which I'm not a great fan) - but commend the RSPB for doing it. A good opportunity to be siezed and well timed. Hopefully they are not treading on the BTO's toes, and are working together because if they are competing for the same info that is just daft.

Andy Mabbett said...

Managed properly, this new, entry level activity will feed people into more detailed surveys such as those from the BTO, and organisations monitoring other animals and plants.

BirdGuides said...

Completely agree. Managed properly this would be a fantastic opportunity to engage people and gather some valuable data. I truly hope the data is going to be correctly collated and passed on - and also to other smaller organisations such as Bumblebee and Butterfly Conservation and the like. I look forward to seeing the results filtering through.

Marvin said...

Not exactly in my bailiwick, but I do hope cooperation prevails.

Beautiful Forester moth.