Natural England commissioned the review of Local Record Centre (LRC) business models to understand the costs associated with maintaining species and habitat datasets collated for a geographical area.
LRCs are run in partnership on a not-for-profit basis to collect, manage and disseminate information relating to wildlife, wildlife sites and habitats, typically at a county-scale.
In addition to the normal costs of running any organisation a fundamental requirement of an LRC is to maintain and update the collation of species and habitat data which have been collected within their area. These overheads may or may not be explicitly underwritten within the LRC funding agreements. Where they are not underwritten the LRC needs to attempt to recoup these either through providing products which are charged for and/or through the use of volunteer staff time to assist with the digitisation of the sources. As a result LRCs are often focused on uses which will provide a financial return and may be restrictive over the use of their data holdings by other users (due to the risk of their core business being undermined).
The overall requirement for this piece of work was to gain additional insight into the scale of the basic overheads and also the uses and services that this information underpins. Part of the purpose of the work was to identify uses beyond those to which data is already being applied to.
This work forms one element of the Defra Fund for Local Biodiversity Recording, a three year project to develop the national network of local biological recording.
Natural England will be using the report as one piece of evidence in its review of the overall biodiversity programme and to support its advice to Defra on developing the national network of biodiversity recording.