The potential user groups of the envisaged product can be categorised in various ways. An obvious and basic distinction is between professional and non-professional users.
Professional users will require the information in order to fulfil their corporate tasks (including in some cases for commercial purposes). They will place high demands on the quality of the information acquired. They will place a premium on the time needed to collect the information. They will usually have access to relatively sophisticated technical resources and their information-handling skills will be of a relatively high level. They will be more used to work in English (and French in the case of certain international professionals), if this is not their language of daily use, and, in principle, they will be willing to pay for useful information. Non-professional users, by contrast, will tend to the opposite in all these respects.
The fundamental differences between the needs and capabilities of these two potential groups argues for the consortium to design its product for professional user groups. However, professional users themselves fall into different groups, each with its own particular needs and capabilities. The design of the products’ databases will have to take into account such differences.
Two important distinctions between different professional users can be made.
First is the distinction between those working in the field of biodiversity and those who require information on some aspect of biodiversity concerning their work in a different field. In general, biodiversity professionals will be more familiar with the kind of information made available through this project, the organization of this kind of information and the various sources of relevant data on biodiversity than those active in other areas. They are also likely to use environmental databases more frequently and may require more detailed and specialised information.
Second are the distinctions amongst other professionals who would be potentially interested in accessing the databases. These can be grouped according to work/occupation. The most relevant are as follows:
- Policy-makers: Policy-makers most likely to use the databases in practice are those who are somewhat lower in the organizational hierarchy with the task of consolidating policy-relevant information and identifying and elaborating policy options as the basis for the higher-level tasks leading to decision-making. Depending on the particular circumstances, either summarised or detailed information will be required.
- Researchers: Many researchers will require high quality, detailed information, often of a scientific nature. They will in most cases also possess high information-handling skills and relatively sophisticated technical resources.
- Consultants: Given the nature of their work, consultants will generally require project-specific information. Information-gathering activities will often be strongly influenced by commercial constraints concerning time and financial investment and the usability of the information acquired.
- NGOs: Environmental NGOs range from small, highly specialised and poorly-resourced groups to large international organizations such as WWF. However, their staffs are as a rule highly expert and capable.
- Media: Both the audio-visual and the written media can be expected to access the databases. Of all the potential user groups, media are the most skilled at information gathering, but will generally require easy-to-understand, readily digestible data together with named sources where additional inquiries can be made. It can be expected that specialised scientific media will make regular use of the database and will require information that is detailed.
- Educators: Like the media, educators will require easy-to-understand, readily digestible data. However, language may be more of a constraint to educators in their ability to understand the information provided. It should also be noted that both the media and educators are vehicles for the redistribution of the information in the databases.