[Coral-List] Utila Reef Health & Developing Country Knowledge

David Fisk davefisk at gmail.com
Sun Apr 6 14:53:44 EDT 2008

I would like to add a few comments re the points raised by Dwight on the
issue of data and prior information loss from developing countries. This is
also a very real problem in many Pacific Island nations where hard to come
by funding and resultant knowledge, is in effect squandered as new
projects end up repeating prior project objectives, due to the loss
of existing reports and data for one reason or another (Dwight hit the nail
on the head with a number of his points). Also National country scientists
are frequently disadvantaged and hindered in their vital work due to this
same problem.

Other reasons for information loss in addition to Dwight's list, is the fact
that many visiting researchers and consultants are guilty of taking existing
country reports (frequently one or a few hard copies are only available),
often for the honest reason of making a copy for their own use, but somehow
the original copy does not end up back in the source department or office
where they got them from. Secondly, some regional Pacific organisations can
be difficult in providing free access to, and sometimes do not adequately
preserve, completed reports and studies. There are one or two outstanding
exceptions to that general rule but it has been a problem for decades now,
and much improvement is still necessary.

While there has been improvements in recent years in the preservation of
developing country information, perhaps there needs to be some provisions
for multiple physical sources of this information (different country
libraries, and different computer networks and database systems).
Preferably, it should be in digital form so they can be easily distributed
from networked country database sources. A classic case in point where
multiple information sources could have been of great benefit is Niue, where
a few years ago the majority of the country's natural and cultural knowledge
was effectively swept off the cliff by waves generated by a very severe

A way forward may be that all visiting scientists/consultants in developing
countries be very aware of the possibility of limitations of within country
ability to adequately maintain resource information, and that they take it
upon themselves to ensure the wide deposition of their work both within a
country and in regional organisation libraries. For a few of these people,
it may be necessary for a major mind shift to cease approaching work in
developing countries as a sort of nation wide laboratory for their own
advancement or benefit, and not for the people they freely obtain this
information from.

Secondly, the donor organisations should be aware of this apparent
widespread problem and could ensure preservation of and easy access to, the
project information that they fund. After all, it is in their best interests
that they do not continue to re-invent the wheel wrt to funding activities,
and that this vital information is not effectively lost to the country,
which one would hope is their aim in funding these activities in the first
place. For example, requiring the submission of multiple physical
locations for information, as well as doing the same themselves, can be
included as a requirement of project outputs with payments contingent on
this distribution being completed. Ditto for the funding bodies themselves,
it would be of mutual benefit to provide easy access to this information
that they have funded. Sadly, this is not always the case.

Dave Fisk

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