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Geoff Broughton worked on Defra (formerly the Department of the Environment) ambient air quality monitoring projects since leaving university in 1982. The "National" monitoring network consisted of 4 monitoring sites (2 in London, 1 suburban in the South East and 1 rural also in the South East) funded directly by Defra. The Scottish site had just closed. There have always been sites affiliated to the national network that were very loosely controlled in the early years. The affiliates became more integrated from 1996. The monitoring network started to grow rapidly in 1987 due to the adoption of EU Directives. Growth briefly hiccupped in 2008.

The HIS software suite was created by Geoff Broughton in 1988 and this allowed the network to blossom. Over the next 22 years, Geoff continually enhanced the HIS system, developed the "Quality Circle" with colleagues, created the data ratification methodology, trained the data team members and devised the "Data Ratification Production Line" approach. AEA Harwell (aka NETCEN) also managed many other non-Defra monitoring sites. The total number of operational sites in 2010 was in excess of 300 with 1,300 sites in the archive. HIS allowed us to collect data from any existing customer site with any instrument / data logger hardware. No one was ever turned away because we could not poll the data. This impressive data collection to ratification machine was running at optimal speed until June 2010 when redundancies were announced.

The data throughput of hourly means has grown tremendously over the years. In contrast, the number of data processing staff started with about 4 in 1982 and became about 12 in 2009. The majority of these people did not work full time on data. The power of the HIS system allowed us to become much more efficient and report data to a faster timetable. HIS was devised to bring to the attention of the data team anomalies that needed further attention. All the relevant information such as engineer reports, diary entries and calibrations were instantly available online. The majority of the data (~95%) could therefore be processed automatically with the minimum of scrutiny.

The data team always created high quality data. This was often shown on real-time web sites where the pressure to maintain data throughput, day and night, was intense. Anomalous peaks had to be quickly corrected because warning alerts were issued to stakeholders. The "Data Ratification Production Line" allowed us to gather the huge range of diverse information that was needed to systematically polish the measurements. Corrected data were continuously uploaded to public web sites within 5 minutes. Online users could see the real-time data being slowly improved until the final data were published. Consequently, we never missed a Defra ratification deadline after 27 quarterly cycles.

We were often criticised for providing a Rolls Royce service. This was a bit unfair but we were easily the best.

Contact me Geoff.Broughton@aqdm.co.uk