March 22nd, 2011 by Dave Kilbey
Thinking about how a project like this benefits the host institution and society more widely is an interesting exercise, not least because it gets you thinking about the project in a holistic fashion. Like many people, I tend to find myself drawn into the detail but it’s always good to take a step or two backwards to look at the big picture.
For the host institution (University of Bristol) there are both measurable and immeasurable benefits of Nature Locator. Some of the more obvious ones include the further development or skills relating to; application development, project management and the crowd sourcing of data. Then there is the direct benefit of funding coming into the University to pay for the project. But that may ultimately pale into insignificance when compared to the publicity a project like this looks set to attract with the BBC’s The One Show, Autumnwatch Unsprung and Bang Goes the Theory all having taken an interest in it (and/or it’s parent project “Conker Tree Science”). Personally, I also really value the building of interdisciplinary working relationships; working with people in and outside the University that I otherwise wouldn’t have met. It’s already changed my perspective on the University, for the better I might add. Nature Locator also ticks a lot of boxes in terms of the University’s core objectives in that it supports both teaching and research so we can claim to be well aligned with the Uni’s “vision”. That’ll please the strategy focused people. Public engagement is also a big issue at the moment and this project offers that in spades.
Looking at the benefits to the wider sector we will be able to freely offer an application that has immense potential for reuse in Biological Sciences and beyond, combined with an interesting way of validating data. If it all works out I believe this project could get a lot of people thinking about how they could tweak it to add a new dimension to their work. It may also tell us some very useful things about the Horse Chestnut Miner Moth. This project should also give an extra dimension to the already very successful Conker Tree Science project.