Monday, July 30, 2018

Open data offer risks and rewards for conservation; Nature, July 24, 2018

Editorial, Nature;

Open data offer risks and rewards for conservation

"In a Perspective published this week in Nature Ecology & Evolution (A. I. T. Tulloch et al. Nature Ecol. Evol. 2, 1209–1217; 2018), conservation experts offer a way to help scientists and officials to decide when to publish such sensitive information — and when not to. It’s the latest development in an ongoing debate that pits advocates of open data against those who take a harder line and want more restrictions. The authors warn that a default position in which location data are withheld if a species is identified as being of high biological significance and under high threat — as recommended by the Global Biodiversity Information Facility — risks missing out on the benefits of data sharing.

To aim for a more balanced approach, the scientists drew up a decision tree to help people judge what to do with information gained from wildlife monitoring and surveys. A series of steps asks questions such as “Could data be used to mitigate threats to species?” and “Would sharing location data increase risk of species decline through increased visitation?” In some cases — fish spawning locations for one, because the fishing industry would love to target them — the recommendation is to keep everything from the name of a species to its location under wraps. But in other cases, the need for secrecy is trumped by the possible benefits of transparency. Open data could help local communities fight to protect a habitat when development is threatening a species."

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