Statement of Quality Management Process

BTO expects all work undertaken to be of high quality, using suitable data and tools to draw appropriate conclusions and inferences.

BTO adheres to the Defra Joint Code of Practice for Research (issued on behalf of its family of organisations) and operates a rigorous internal quality assurance programme that is linked to a computerised Project Management System. This system helps to ensure that work is done on time, that milestones are met, and that objectives are achieved to the desired standard.

Projects are managed through this system to ensure that:

  • key outputs are delivered at the appropriate milestones and to the required quality
  • there is close liaison between the contributors to the project and the client
  • stakeholders are informed of progress and consulted should opportunities for innovation arise or unforeseen deviations emerge
  • conclusions and recommendations are supported by appropriate evidence in a transparent fashion

This is achieved by:

  • establishing a clear and detailed plan at the start of the project
  • Appointing a single BTO project manager to monitor and control all operational aspects of the work
  • maintaining a clear audit trail detailing all actions taken
  • maintaining a process of internal review of protocols, procedures and reports
  • implementing a system of version control and archiving for project documents, data and analytical code
  • encouraging staff who are home-working to maintain frequent contact with project managers and team members/project collaborators, and providing appropriate technical support to enable access to the necessary facilities to complete the project

Throughout each programme of work undertaken by the BTO, regular updates are provided to the client’s project manager, with reference to pre-agreed schedules, and consultations are held as necessary (including with the project manager, any project steering group and within the project team). This keeps both the client and BTO project managers informed of progress and facilitates the identification and resolution of any problems likely to affect delivery at the earliest opportunity, should unforeseen issues arise. Such regular communication, along with the submission of draft outputs prior to final delivery, also provides opportunities for the client to comment on the proposed outputs and highlight areas which may need to be revised. Substantive changes to the original project specification are likely to require additional resource to be negotiated.

For each project, progress is monitored by the BTO project manager with respect to the series of tasks and deliverables involved and to check the quality of the work carried out. At each key stage, a brief review of the tasks required to complete the remaining work is conducted. This quality assurance process is meant to ensure that projects undertaken by the Trust’s staff (including those in collaboration with others) are, as far as is reasonably practical, robust and free from errors in data collation, analysis and reporting and presentation. By undertaking this assessment the aim is to achieve a project that is ‘right first time’ thereby reducing the need for avoidable re-analysis or duplication of work. Should progress or the quality of work fall behind schedule or target, additional measures are implemented to ensure that any deficiencies are corrected and that the project remains on course for final delivery according to the agreed schedule. These checks and balances also control and ensure the financial performance of each project and minimise financial loss.

In addition to these quality assurance procedures, the BTO specifically ensures that staff carrying out the work have the appropriate knowledge, skills and experience for each task. In the event that staff members with responsibilities for work to be carried out under a study become unavailable for a significant period of time, other suitably competent members of staff with an appropriate background are assigned to the work. The BTO has a long proven track record of delivering high quality, impartial scientific research and consultancy work on time, within budget, and to the required standard to a wide range of clients, often involving contributions from a wide range of individual staff members with transferable skills. Therefore this allows for the temporary or permanent loss of staff from a project team to be compensated for by transferring responsibility to others with appropriate skills in consultation with the client project manager.

Most of our volunteer-based data gathering systems, especially those which involve our long-term surveys, have procedures in place to minimise errors arising during the data collection stage. These include providing clear guidance and training opportunities for volunteers and proven data capture and storage solutions, with extensive verification, validation and audit routines. Strategic oversight of the schemes is provided by two Committees of the BTO’s Board of Trustees (the Ringing and Nest Recording Committee and Regional Network Committee) that include both staff and volunteer representatives; the major schemes have steering groups involving staff, funders and, where appropriate, external experts. In addition, occasional workshops and stakeholder events reviewing specific issues as required, ensuring the schemes remain fit for purpose and keep pace with developments in field and analytical methods.

The results of scientific analysis, which form a significant component of BTO work, are reviewed by and discussed with at least one senior scientist (in most cases, this would be a Head of Team, but, for particularly important or high profile projects, the Director of Science) prior to completion.

We expect projects to use a system of version control for analytical computer code and project reports and provide guidelines on how to do this. Final datasets and code, with an adequate level of documentation, used to produce the final outputs are archived so that the results can be replicated by a third party. Written reports are similarly reviewed and commented on by at least one senior author, usually the project lead, but in many cases, also by others with relevant expertise. Review by at least one person external to the project can be particularly helpful in identifying ambiguities and flaws in reasoning. In most cases, we expect to submit project results for publication in the peer-reviewed literature providing an additional level of scrutiny and guarantor of overall quality.

All scientific work at BTO is governed by our Code of Good Scientific Practice, which is reviewed annually by senior management (led by the Director of Science) and the BTO’s governing Board of Trustees. A report of any issues arising during the year is made to the Board of Trustees, which can lead to changes in the policy, or to the organisational risk register. Adherence to this Code by staff is maintained through a programme of formal annual review meetings, and more regular supervisory meetings between staff and line-managers, and between project leads and individual staff working on those projects. These meetings include a review of work progress against milestones and an assessment of work outputs. Where performance issues are identified, these are discussed by senior managers, leading to the mentoring and/or further training of the individual involved, or improvements to BTO policy.

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