Fishing for data and sorting the catch: assessing the data quality, completeness and fitness for use of data in marine biogeographic databases

Vandepitte, L., Bosch, S., Tyberghein, L., Waumans, F., Vanhoorne, B., Hernandez, F., De Clerck, O., Mees, J..

Being able to assess the quality and level of completeness of data has become indispensable in marine biodiversity research, especially when dealing with large databases that typically compile data from a variety of sources. Very few integrated databases offer quality flags on the level of the individual record, making it hard for users to easily extract the data that are fit for their specific purposes. This article describes the different steps that were developed to analyse the quality and completeness of the distribution records within the European and international Ocean Biogeographic Information Systems (EurOBIS and OBIS). Records are checked on data format, completeness and validity of information, quality and detail of the used taxonomy and geographic indications and whether or not the record is a putative outlier. The corresponding quality control (QC) flags will not only help users with their data selection, they will also help the data management team and the data custodians to identify possible gaps and errors in the submitted data, providing scope to improve data quality. The results of these quality control procedures are as of now available on both the EurOBIS and OBIS databases. Through the Biology portal of the European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet Biology), a subset of EurOBIS records—passing a specific combination of these QC steps—is offered to the users. In the future, EMODnet Biology will offer a wide range of filter options through its portal, allowing users to make specific selections themselves. Through LifeWatch, users can already upload their own data and check them against a selection of the here described quality control procedures.

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