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Subject: Re: Fishery data bases/Why is there so m
From: "Schmidt, Dana C." <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Academic forum on fisheries ecology and related topics <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 2 Dec 1996 12:00:00 KST
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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
work.

Dana Schmidt, Principal Limnologist, Alaska Department of Fish and Game
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