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Subject: Re: Fishery data bases/Why is there so m
From: "Dr R.T. Leah" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Academic forum on fisheries ecology and related topics <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 3 Dec 1996 09:27:54 GMT

text/plain (76 lines)

Dana Schmidt, Principal Limnologist, Alaska Department of Fish and Game
([log in to unmask]) recently wrote some very perceptive comments
on this subject.
I can only add my support for more collaboration between regulatory
agencies and those of us in academe whilst pointing out the downside:
somebody needs to provide us with the funding even to just be able to

Best wishes, Rick Leah

>I believe most of the responses on this topic to date have avoided
>confronting the real reason for data secrecy.  Virtually all of the basic
>sciences obtain data from public funding, whether the information be
>images from the space telescope, or submarine time for looking at marine
>thermal vents.  These studies principal investigators most certainly do
>not release the data until they have had the opportunity to publish the
>information.  The only fundamental difference between these efforts and
>those of agency researchers is the length of the time series of the data
>collection.  Modern electronics allow essentially instant access to the
>information from both sources.  The incentive for agency and academic
>researchers to initiate and maintain funding for research is that you
>have first access to that data for analysis and publication; otherwise
>why ever submit grant requests or the intra-agency equivalent.   A
>researcher would need to just send out email to all of those in your
>field, demanding instant access to all of the "publicly funded"
>information and publish it out from under the people who have put all of
>the effort into the field data collection and the development and
>maintenance of the data bases.  Within an agency such as my own, data
>hoarding is common place as the overtaxed field research operatives who
>are active in real-time management strongly resent someone from even
>within another part of the agency, taking the information they have
>collected, edited and maintained, and putting it out in the general
>literature with at best, only an acknowledgment toward those who did most
>of the work.  Often these publications are perceived by the field
>researcher as poorly done because of the lack of knowledge about the data
>collection process and may present the management researcher with another
>problem; having to counter invalid interpretations of his/her own data.
> This most likely occurs when the publication addresses a highly volatile
>allocation issue and a lot of lawyers are around.
> Although this explains the perspective of the field researcher toward
>data hoarding, a downside of this attitude is that often very valuable
>data sits in file cabinets or computers for years because of the lack of
>time and/or expertise  within the data collectors local organization,
>while such expertise is available and sitting unused in other
>institutions who are data starved.  The public good is clearly not served
>by this system which seems to be rather global in scope from the comments
>turned in to date.  One of the solutions to most of the problems from the
>perspective of the field researcher that also overcomes these other
>problems is true collaboration.  This requires much more effort on part
>of the researcher who wishes to use data collected by others but will
>result in higher quality publications.  It also has the added benefit of
>seeing the research findings incorporated into the management process as
>the field data collectors are now co-authors and have ownership in the
>process.  This does not remove the prospect of other interpretations of
>this information since as soon as the information is published, the data
>will be also usually made public unless some legal prohibitions exist.
> We have employed this recently in our lab, particularly in areas where
>we have limited expertise or experience.  However our collaborators have
>put in much effort in not only analyzing our data base but in data entry
>and resolving problems and errors in the information base.  They also
>bring their own data and experience into the problem solving process and
>have offered us reciprocal opportunities to participate in their own

                    X  Dr Rick Leah                         X
                    X  Industrial Ecology Research Centre   X
                    X  University of Liverpool,             X
                    X  Liverpool L69 3BX, UK                X
                    X  Phone: +44 (0)151 794 5293           X
                    X  Fax: +44 (0)151 794 5289             X
                    X  Internet: [log in to unmask]            X
                    X                                       X

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