Partnerships for a Common Purpose: Cooperative Fisheries Research and Management
Ensuring the Scientific Integrity of Cooperative Research
Bonnie J. Ponwith
There is a growing demand for timely, high-quality science for use in managing the nation’s living marine resources. Leveraging limited research funds through research carried out cooperatively is a means of meeting that demand. Research conducted by agency scientists in cooperation with the commercial and recreational fishing industry, nongovernmental organizations, and universities contributes significantly to the overall knowledge base for sound management and policy development.
Consistent quality and timeliness of the science products from cooperative research ensures its place among the core science for meeting management and policy needs. The Federal Information Quality Act (section 515 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001, Public Law 106-554) and the Office of Management and Budget’s Peer Review Guidelines provide the mandates and guidance on the quality of information used in management. The Information Quality Act issues government-wide guidelines that “provide policy and procedural guidance to Federal agencies for ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information (including statistical information) disseminated by Federal agencies.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) implements this guidance via the NOAA’s Information Quality Guidelines, within which peer review is central to delivery of sound science products and advice. As is true for all science used for management, cooperative research can benefit from peer review at three key levels: (1) programmatic reviews, (2) proposal reviews, and (3) review and integration of final research products.
An ideal cooperative research program is well planned and comprehensive—one in which funded projects collectively advance the state of knowledge and move us toward a common goal. Conversely, a pitfall to avoid is devolution into a fragmented program—one in which many small and unrelated research projects are funded. While each small project may result in useful findings, the opportunity for synergy is lost in this approach. Programmatic reviews are important tools for setting research priorities—for establishing a balanced research portfolio given present and projected research requirements. Collaborative planning allows for focused research investments that comport with short- and long-term strategic plans and promotes a more comprehensive approach to science in which projects collectively contribute to a growing understanding of a larger problem. These reviews also provide a mechanism for responding to changes in science requirements driven by changes in legislative mandates, management approaches, or policy decisions.
Another benefit of programmatic reviews is the opportunity they provide to modify science priorities and management decisions based on outcomes from previous research. These feedback loops are crucial to integrating cooperative research and management.