Leading Edge: Putting Scotland in the forefront of information sharing, data visualisation and citizen engagement

Scotland's environment web
September 18, 2015

In this digital age, Scotland’s environment web is leading the way in developing digital technologies which will help the public to find out more about Scotland’s environment. People expect more from information provision than simply reproducing books and publications on screen. They want interest and interactivity – to be able to visualise information spatially and in other ways to find out what is important. This is truer than ever when it comes to Scotland’s environment, and the scientific data and information which is collected, researched, analysed and used.

Scotland’s environment web's innovative approach, providing access to data and information in a digital format, brings together information on Scotland’s environment so that it is easily available and in a useable form. Jointly funded by the European Union’s LIFE+ programme and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and with input and support from a number of partner organisations across Scotland, the Scotland's environment web project is committed to developing a modern and dynamic approach to presenting information.

David Pirie, Director of Science and Strategy at SEPA, says: “The environment is all interconnected. What happens in one area has a consequence for another and therefore the science and research we do needs to be multidisciplinary and joined up. We needed a way for partners to interact and bring data together and then to make that data accessible and communicate it. Scotland's environment web achieves all of that."

Scotland's environment web has put Scotland at the European forefront of sharing environmental information, prioritising problems and involving citizens in assessing and improving their own environment, with a number of exciting developments and changes coming to the website over the coming year. “I think it’s a fantastic public resource,” says David Pirie. “It’s a tremendous opportunity to make a real difference to the environment. It’s an opportunity to allow us to engage with people, get the knowledge and understanding out of all our raw data and find out about the issues that matter the most.

Ed Mackey, Unit Manager for Knowledge and Information Management at Scotland's environment web partner, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), agrees and says the partnership aspect of Scotland's environment web is fundamental: “More than ever before we need to work together to use our expertise, knowledge and other resources to best effect. Scotland's environment web adds value through a shared understanding of environmental opportunities and constraints founded on common access to a comprehensive and trusted evidence base.

Find out more about us 

Fresh Air: A new way to understand what we breathe

Clean air is a basic requirement of life, yet across many urban areas air pollution can adversely impact on the health and the well-being of a large number of people.

The quality of our air is important to all of us and we all have a part to play in maintaining good air quality.

To help increase the understanding and engagement of individuals and communities in air quality, we have created a new area within Scotland's environment web to find all the information about air quality in one place.

So it pulls air quality themed, informative, involving and interactive data from all over the various sections of the web.

Learning about air quality

Perhaps most exciting is the way Scotland’s environment web introduces air quality as an interdisciplinary topic for learners from upper primary to lower secondary stages of school. We explain the science behind air pollutants, the consequences for us and how our actions contribute to those effects. Young learners are taken on a journey to school with activities to help them understand the impact of travelling to school by different methods.

Teaching packs which contain leaflets, posters and even templates for letters to write to parents also help to push schools through the Eco Schools Accreditation as an extra incentive.

Take a fresh look at air quality

Atlas of Living Scotland – Biodiversity Gateway launched

NBN Atlas Scotland

Since its establishment in 2000, the National Biodiversity Network, (NBN) has developed into a world class repository for UK species data. Information is held by many different organisations and the individuals who collect it in a variety of formats, from computer databases to handwritten record cards. This means that although a huge amount of information exists, it isn’t always easy to access.

National Biodiversity Network (NBN) idea could not be simpler: capture wildlife data once in a standard electronic form; integrate data from different sources; and use the internet to enable data to be used many times in different ways by as many people as possible. However, much of the embedded logic and functionality is technically complex and costly to maintain, outdated and unsuited to the growing needs of UK data providers and users. Much of it is not open, it is not particularly intuitive or user-friendly, and it is unable to fully meet new data standards.

To address these concerns the National Biodiversity Network have recently selected the Australian model of a biodiversity data platform and has now built The Atlas of Living Scotland, which will also serve as a pilot for a UK-wide roll out of the new data infrastructure for biodiversity.

One of the first tasks in this process was to assemble key stakeholders to provide more information and to seek advice and input about atlas user needs such as functionalities and interface requirements for this new online platform. The first Stakeholder Partnership meeting for the Atlas of Living Scotland was held on Friday 24th July and was attended by 39 organisations in Scotland, involved in biological recording or working with and analysing biodiversity data.

The feedback from the gathered representatives was that there was strong support for the Atlas of Living Scotland implementation and for the improved data infrastructure and tools for data display and analysis. A group of ten people nominated themselves to be part of the atlas user testing group that will work from September onwards to ensure the interface is intuitive and functional.

The powerful new biodiversity gateway for Scotland as a daughter website within the family of Scotland’s environment web has now been launched, making biodiversity data more readily accessible for a range of policy, educational and broader public purposes.

This new resource also fits well with The Scottish Government Digital Future High Level Operating Framework which encourages effective use of all forms of data to accomplish our business outcomes, common standards and interoperability for collaboration locally, nationally and internationally, maximises delivery on-line and through public sector data sharing in order to increase public use, confidence and satisfaction.

The Atlas of Living Scotland will be operational by end-August 2015, with further development and testing through to March 2016. Anyone wishing to join the user testing group should email info@als.scot

You can find out more at the Atlas of Living Scotland.

Back to School!

Exciting new teaching resources designed by teachers for teachers

The newly launched get learning section of Scotland’s environment web is a fantastic resource for all learners and teaching practitioners with maps, data, resources and useful links – all of which have been carefully matched with Curriculum for Excellence and National Qualifications.

Working with Education Scotland and a group of teachers and educators we found  teachers wanted to deliver environmental topics in class but could not easily find accurate and reliable content in one place.

Get learning is Scotland’s first one-stop-shop for environmental data that can be used across different age groups and subject areas – directly linked to the Curriculum for Excellence and National Qualifications. The new online resources were developed as a result of extensive engagement with young people, teachers and partner organisations.

You’ll also find a list of mobile apps for each topic. These can be used on mobile devices and tablets to encourage young people to get involved with their environment, collect their own data and become citizen scientists.

Get learning gives young people the opportunity to share their own images and thoughts about the environment. Instagram posts using #GetLearningScot feed through to the site and scroll across the bottom of each page allowing young people to engage with their local environment, share ideas and ask questions.

With links to citizen science projects and surveys, there are opportunities for learners to get involved in collecting data about their own environment and taking steps to conserving and improving it.

Get learning directs practitioners to the information, data and maps they need to deliver learning and teaching about Scotland’s environment. A great tool for information handling and analysing real-life data.

Get learning project is managed by SEPA on behalf of partners and supported by European LIFE funding, is committed to improving access to data for schools – pupils and teachers.

For more information - Get learning

Enter Our Environment Competition now!

Are you a young person with a passion for the environment, or do you know a young person that cares about environmental issues and wants to make a difference to their local community? If the answer is yes, why not get involved in this year’s our environment competition?

Our environment competition is an exciting competition run by Scotland’s environment web in partnership with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Keep Scotland Beautiful, Young Scot and Education Scotland.

Open to those of primary and secondary school age living in Scotland, entries are welcome from individuals, school classes, clubs or groups. We want you to: 

  • find a local environmental problem;
  • investigate it;
  • tell us how they would reduce the problem and make their environment better.

The winners of each of the competition age categories will win £100, with the overall winning entry receiving £1,000, as well as help and support to take the idea forward. This entry will also be nominated for the Young Scot Awards.

Entries can be produced in any format, but must be submitted electronically. Formats can include: 

  • written work;
  • animation;
  • comic format;
  • art work;
  • audio or video.

The closing date for entries is 31 March 2016, so there’s plenty of time to get your entry completed and submitted. Further information about the competition can be found here Our Environment Competition

New releases on Scotland’s environment web since last newsletter

Adobe Acrobat Reader is the free, trusted leader for reliably viewing, annotating and signing PDFs.
Download Adobe Acrobat Reader