Sharing Fish Data

Before last week, I had never attended an American Fisheries Society function.  I have known a few fisheries biologists in my academic and personal life, including one of my closest friends who works on migration patterns in coastal fishes.  I don’t recall having any preconceived notions about the differences between fisheries folks and ecologists (or other types of scientists with which I am more familiar), but there appear to be distinct peculiarities specific to these groups.

Observation #1: Fisheries scientists have tidy spreadsheets.  When asked how much effort it would take to “clean up” their spreadsheets so that others could use their data, more than 60% said it would take very little or no work:

How much work to prepare a spreadsheet for sharing?

The amount of work required by the respondent before sharing a spreadsheet with a colleague.

I hypothesize that fisheries data tends to be quite large and unwieldy if not managed and organized well.  It may also be that fisheries scientists are more frequently analyzing their data using other software programs and therefore are less likely to conduct analyses within Excel, which often results in cluttered spreadsheets.

Observation #2: Fisheries scientists are less likely to be willing to share their data compared to ecologists.  I admit that the graph below suggests otherwise, however this statement is based on my discussions with ecologists and fisheries scientists, and the attitudes I perceived during our talks.  The cold, hard data shows that most fisheries scientists interviewed think it’s important to share data (72%):

How important is sharing?

Respondents' responses to the question, "How important is it to share your data?"

Although I did not include this question in my survey at ESA, ecologists were generally quite positive about sharing data, and were a bit sheepish if they had to admit they had never shared their data publicly.  This was definitely not the case with fisheries scientists. They were in general hesitant to say that sharing was important, and often qualified it with the statement “data in general should be shared”, not willing to say they should share their own data.

Observation #3: Fisheries scientists’ unwillingness to share data translates to what they want from the add-in: they are most interested in having help with organizing and managing their data for their own use.  Those who answered “no opinion” either thought  data sharing was unimportant, or were satisfied with Excel as it is.

What the add-in should do

Respondents' answer to the question, "What should the Excel add-in help you accomplish?

 

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One thought on “Sharing Fish Data

  1. cstrasser says:

    In case you missed it, here’s a Nature News Piece covering a recent PLoS ONE article on the lack of data sharing in science, and attitudes underlie this lack of sharing.

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