Sunday, April 12, 2015

Shark Base - more senseless Duplication?

THIS is where you should upload your observations!

I trust you've seen this?

Very slick.
Normally, I would be full of praise, the more as I respect Ryan for SOS and the role it has played in the WA Shark Cull.

And still, it deeply irritates me.
Sharks represent but a tiny subset of marine research and conservation (and incidentally, global fisheries) and the available resources in terms of dedication, time, manpower and funding devoted to them are equally comparably scarce - and with that in mind, it really upsets me when I come across yet another one of those projects that reinvents the wheel and amounts to little more than a fragmentation and squandering of the little means we dispose of.

Because there's already eShark.
Crated by Christine Ward-Paige way back then when nobody cared about citizen science let alone Sharks, this is the original global go-to resource that has already resulted in a wealth of scientific publications and continues to fuel national initiatives like our GFSC (that is incidentally happening as we speak!) or eShark Thailand, and continues to accumulate daily data by divers worldwide via its online survey. As an example, Projects Abroad has been uploading data to eShark for over a year, meaning that together with the BRUV data, Beqa Lagoon is now one of the best documented Shark viewing spots anywhere!
And talking of which, a birdie twitters that eShark may soon become the cornerstone of yet another stellar initiative - so keep watching this space!

And what about us divers.
Every week, we get inundated with yet more bloody requests to partake in some survey from bloody Whales to bloody Seahorses - so can we at least try and stick to one focal point and one methodology per group?

Yes I know I know...


Johann MOURIER said...

Yes I agree Mike, and what irritate me is the fact that everyone can upload observation but not necessarily with picture... so how you can trust a species identification by unknown divers... for me the data are useless without a picture if you don't know the observer...

DaShark said...

Good point.

Overall, it appears a tad haphazard.
When u can report just about anything observed anywhere, whoever does the data analysis will have his hands full in trying to separate the legit from the chaff.

Dr. Ryan Kempster said...

I would like to clarify a few points that you have raised in this article:

SharkBase is unique as it allows users to keep track of their personal shark sightings while also contributing to our global database, which is accessible to scientists worldwide. This is in contrast to other websites, where a sighting is submitted and users have no further involvement with the data or the website. In addition, SharkBase has been set up specifically to be very user-friendly and to encourage future engagement by allowing access to verified data stored in SharkBase. This will only increase in the future as we introduce new options for users.

You suggest that SharkBase is redundant because eShark exists, but if that is the case then I assume you also think the same for Ecocean, Shark Pulse, Spot A Shark, Sharks of California, Shark Observation Network, GEERG, etc. The fact that there are a number of mechanisms in place to submit shark sightings does not dismiss the effectiveness of each and every one of them, because all of these networks are open to sharing data. Therefore, the more the merrier, as more data will be collected around the world. The effectiveness of Citizen Science is in its ability to build capacity and provide access to data through as many mechanisms as possible. You obviously prefer eShark, and that’s great, as I hope to share data with eShark, and so our combined efforts will contribute to the same goal. So, please do continue to promote eShark and collect valuable data from Christine Ward-Paige’s team, which will benefit the broader scientific community.

Johann Mourier: You suggest that allowing the public to upload observations without photos is useless, but I would argue that not allowing them to upload sightings without photos just discourages involvement altogether. Allowing sightings without photos can still be valuable as long as proper meta-analysis of the data is completed. It is then up to the scientists to decide the value of that data. Is it not better to have that option later, rather than just dismiss it altogether at the start?

DaShark: Welcome to science. Analysis of data is one of the fundamental processes of science, and there is no denying that it takes a lot of work. With the proper expertise and analytic methods, though, the results can be very rewarding.

Therefore, to conclude, SharkBase is open to anyone to get involved and all data are available to scientists to supplement their current programs. We are not in competition; we are here to collaborate with existing programs.

DaShark said...

DaShark: Welcome to science.

Indeed! :)
What I discern and bemoan are all those stand-alone solutions, all those competing researchers doing the same thing (e.g. slapping tags on the same 10 species of iconic Sharks which then are sometimes condemned to swim around carrying multiple tags by multiple researchers), going to the same funders asking for $$$ for identical competing projects etc etc - I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.
And lemme tell 'ya, the donors are increasingly sick & tired of all that fragmentation & grandstanding, and asking for better coordination and cooperation.

In this specific case, I bemoan the creation of yet another global data base for Shark sightings.
In an ideal world, there should by all means be local/regional efforts - but then all world wide data should be aggregated into one global data base for analysis by a group of lead scientists. And you guys should be able to agree to a common goal and a common methodology, and each then contribute to it - and then apply for ONE set of funding benefiting both you and scientific progress.
Isn't that what conferences like Sharks International are for = to foster global cooperation?

Yes your data base is redundant.
You've merely pimped the old wheel with a couple of slick bells and whistles that better reflect today's technological advances and are trying to better leverage social media. Great. Lacking coordination, in five years the next new kid on the block will be doing the same to you, etc etc. Hardly the correct way to achieve progress - no?

Look, I'm not naive and know that right now, alas, that's just how the cookie crumbles = the competition for funds, status, recognition, jobs etc trumps everything.

But I don't have to like it.
It's not economical, it's not rational, squanders resources that should be pooled - and because the sharing is not only not happening but may even be impossible due to conflicting methodologies, it leads to worse, not better science.

But of course you know all that - right? :)

Johann MOURIER said...

Ryan: I am not saying that the data are useless in their globality as some sighting may be great and easily verified. What I was just pointing out was the fact that the data without picture are not usable for scientists as you open the input of observations for any citizen that may make mistakes in their species identification if they are not specialists or at least dive masters (regular divers). I am just saying that in a scientific way. Of course the initiative can be great in the way it involve people to the shark topic and conservation, but many data from non-trained observers might be useless for scientific analysis. That's why we built our regional network in French Polynesia selecting a network of known and trustable observers.. and there are still some confusions and mistakes and some data are still unsusable.
As Mike said I am more favorable of Regional networks, also because it is easier to manage. I don't know what are the results of other networks like GEERG, Shark Pulse... and how it is useful (for science)...
I believe in citizen science but as scientist we need to find a better way to implement it if we want to use the data for shark science and conservation...
I am of course open for constructive discussions on this topics, and I would be happy to know if SharkBase is working well as implemented.