Atlas Project (was Re: ABC products)

Subject: Atlas Project (was Re: ABC products)
From: Stephen Ambrose <>
Date: Sat, 04 Apr 1998 14:47:49 +1000
At 10:14 PM 4/1/98 +1000, David McDonald wrote:
>Hi Stephen, great to hear of so much progress and productivity re ABC
outputs. Well
>I'm especially thrilled about the advice of publishing on CD-ROM. It will
make a
>fine example, and learning experience, for the new BA Atlas. In fact,
there is a
>rumour about that already (before we've made our first count!) BA has
decided (on
>commercial grounds) that the Atlas will not be made available in
electronic format,
>whatever that may be in seven or eight years time. Perhaps you and others
can do
>something about that rumour?

Hi David,

Despite very little news being forecast publicly about the New Atlas
Project in the last few months, a great deal of preparation has been underway.

Yes, I'm aware of the many rumours that are flying around. Perhaps this is
related to the lack of information coming out of Birds Australia. Little
has been said because of the heavy workload in preparing for the project,
and the hesitation to say anything publicly before negotiations with the
Commonwealth Government have been finalised.

However, I can let you know of the following advances:

Dr Geoff Barrett has been appointed as the National Co-ordinator of the New
Atlas Project. He will start in this position on 14 April. Three more
project officers, one based in Perth, one in Sydney and the third in
Brisbane, will be appointed by early June.

Environment Australia (the Commonwealth Department of the Environment) is
funding the project for four years through its Bushcare and Wetland
programs. Both EA and BA are in the very final stages on agreeing to
contractual conditions for the project, and I believe that these
negotiations will be completed by the end of the coming week. These
negotiations have been amazingly long and time consuming, and necessarily
so, but we are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel.

On 18-19 April 1998, there is an atlas planning workshop in Melbourne.
About 70 people will be attending this workshop, comprising professional
ornithologists who are experts in bird monitoring, biostatisticians,
computer hardware and data-base experts, scientists and bureaucrats from
State and Commonwealth wildlife agencies, and representatives of major bird
clubs and natural history societies. Unfortunately, attendence to this
workshop is by invitation only to avoid a cast of thousands, and so we can
agree on specific resolutions after two days on how the project will be run.

The main objectives of this workshop will be to (1) advertise the aims of
the Atlas project, (2) define and (if necessary) refine the scientific
methodology of data-collection, (3) seek advice about computer hardware,
database design and presentation, and (4) discuss how all the project
stake-holder groups can work together to ensure a sucessfully run project
and maximum (scientific and conservation) value of the database.

Geoff will be responsible for implementing the recommendations that arise
from this workshop and will present his findings to the Atlas Project
Steering Committee in early June. Once this Committee is satisfied with
Geoff's proposals, he will be given the "green light" to set up the project
in readiness for the first day of atlassing: 
1 August 1998.

In approaching the Commonwealth Government to fund this project, BA asked
for funding for a 6-year period. This would have allowed BA to co-ordinate
data collection for 5 years (as in the first atlas project) and additional
time to analyse and publish the results. Nearly all the funds that we
requested will be provided by EA, but  they must be used over a 4-year,
rather than a 6-year period - a requirement imposed upon us by EA. This is
because the EA program that is providing the funds currently only has a
4-year lifespan.

Some of the funds will be used to set up a framework for running the new
atlas project as an ongoing project - lasting several decades, or even
centuries. This is a specific contractual condition which BA and EA have
agreed upon.

So what will be the final products arising from the new atlas project?
Well, this has not yet been decided. Obviously,the most important product
will be the computer database, itself. Databases compiled by BA and other
environmental and scientific organisations, have been important tools in
the everyday promotion of knowledge and conservation of birds and their

There WILL be a major publication product, but it has not yet been decided
if this will be a book, a CD-ROM, something else, or a combination of
these. At its February Research Committee meeting, BA decided it would
allow the project to run 2 years before choosing what publication products
would be produced. This is because publication technology may drastically
change between now and the end of the funding period. In addition, the
progress of the project will undergo a massive review by both BA and EA
after the first 2 years of its operation. BA will then decide whether or
not nationwide data collection will be achieved in 4 years (based on this
review) or whether it will need to find extra funds to lengthen the period
of data collection and allow adequate time to analyse and publish the

There will be ongoing feedback to project participants during the course of
the data collection. A project newsletter and regular articles in Wingspan
will no doubt be the main sources of feedback.

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