Sharing data supports conservation

As a librarian by training, and information and knowledge mobilization specialist by adaptation, I have spent much of my working life trying to get people to read documentary evidence and research findings and put them to use. This has included researchers themselves, who are hobbled by a competitive academic system that often prevents access to knowledge, and discourages sharing of hard-won data.

t it seems that the tide is turning. I carried out a study of the uptake of wildlife research in Botswana because I had heard so many times that scientists did not share their findings with their colleagues and potential non-academic users, and that the main stewards of wildlife in the country ignored or misplaced research findings that had been shared with them. Foreign researchers, I was told, were visiting the country and running away with the data they had collected, and government officials were leaving any findings that had been shared to gather dust on their office shelves. Insights that could be used in management, or to support further research, were being lost.

Bar charts comparing sharing of research data with perception of research uptake

My study of research carried out under Government of Botswana research permits between 1996 and 2014 found that, while neglect of information infrastructure that preserves and provides access to research knowledge is a real concern, researchers actually were sharing their data and, better still, were collaborating with one another and with government, NGOs, and the private sector to collect and analyze it.

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That's why I'm delighted to see the publication of a paper by more than 40 independent and government wildlife researchers who have shared and combined their data to compile an assessment of Botswana's carnivore populations. Since Botswana is home to strong carnivore populations across the country, this research has the potential to support wise management decisions about the conservation of these animals, their prey, and their habitat. This is significant in a country that -- even in these pandemic times -- attracts well-heeled tourists from around the world to see this charismatic wildlife. Much of the work described in the paper was carried out by researchers who have committed to working long-term in Botswana: another finding from my study was that long-term engagement with Botswana's wildlife stakeholders led to more uptake, as the work was more relevant to local managers, and essential relationships were formed and strengthened.

The paper and my study are free to read from the following links:

Collaboration for conservation

The uptake of wildlife research in Botswana: a study of productive interactions