The data and information stock taking exercise
Scope of the Data and Information Needed
Data and information will be needed to confirm the findings in the TDA. In particular, it is important to substantiate the:
- General situation in the water system
- Priority transboundary problems
- Key impacts - both environmental and socio-economic
- Causal chains – Immediate causes, underlying causes and root causes
- Thematic or synthesis reports - e.g. governance analysis, stakeholder analysis)
The critical elements to source will differ from project to project. A TDA for an LME project may require data and information that links to the LME modules – pollution and ecosystem health; productivity; fish and fisheries; socio-economics; and governance. River basin projects often require data and information on water resources, water quality, biodiversity, land use etc.
The key to understanding what kind of data will be required throughout the TDA development process is to fully understand the water system. A good starting point for this is the Project Document, together with the expertise in the Project Management Unit and the TDA development team. It is also worthwhile discussing data and information requirements with country focal points, Agency country representatives and the members of Interministry committees.
The main sources of data and information will vary from project to project but the table shown Here gives a good starting point.
Data and Information Stock taking
Prior to any TDA development, there will need to be an information and data stock taking exercise, the purpose of which is to:
- Identify all sources
- Ascertain the availability of the data and information
- Assess the compatibility and comparability of data sets and information
- Identify where there are gaps
- Analyse the quality of data and information
- Assess how verifiable the data is (e.g. is it cited or peer reviewed?)
- Determine cost implications (if there are any)
By carrying out this exercise prior to any TDA development work, the TDA Development team can ensure that the resultant TDA will be a more complete, coherent and integrated document.
How do we Access Information?
This will vary from project to project. However, the most likely access points for data and information will be:
- Project Document
- Project staff
- TDA Team members and hired experts
- Country Focal Points
- Agency Country Representatives
- Interministry committees
Advice from the Field
- Consider the hierarchy of the data and information available - What is the most reliable? Quality-controlled governmental data and information will generally be reliable and verifiable. But what is next in terms of hierarchy? Is it non-quality-controlled governmental data and information? Or accredited commercial data and information? Or NGO data and information? And what about public perception studies? All are valuable but the TDA Development Team needs to consider the importance and worth of each.
- Develop a network of contacts - When a source has been identified, ask your contact for other possible data or information sources.
- Be creative and think laterally - There are likely to be ways to access data and information that don’t follow the normal approach.
Example: Yellow Sea LME Project
For example in the Yellow Sea LME Project, the Peoples Republic of China has a policy of not divulging data whereas South Korea has a more open policy. In order to acquire current and appropriate GIS maps for the YSLME TDA, South Korea sent national data to China where it was converted into GIS format, together with Chinese national data. The resultant GIS maps were sent back to the YSLME Project for inclusion in the TDA.
- Keep asking - Don’t take no for an answer. Use different contacts to try to access the same data or information.
- If the answer is always no - Particularly for raw data, ask for analysed data or reports. Also consider Metadata (data about data) – it may give you an indication of other avenues or organisations to try.
- Consider anecdotal evidence and stakeholder observations - It can worth considering anecdotal evidence and stakeholder observations - public perception can be very powerful.
Example: BSERP Project
For example, during the BSERP project for the Black Sea over 400 people were randomly questioned from coastal cities and towns around the Black Sea. Those questioned were not selected on the basis of gender, age or occupational considerations. The survey was organized through regional environmental NGOs and represented the only recent regional survey of public opinion undertaken on the causes, status and perceived responsibilities for environmental problems of the Black Sea. Some of the results were presented in the Black Sea TDA.
- Data and information is sometimes available in strange places - It can often be a substitute to collecting your own, often more expensive, data and information. For example, weather data from airports is often freely available - sometimes it is only about knowing where to look.
- Manage your assumptions regarding data - Try to be rigorous in monitoring assumptions – differentiate between what is perceived and what can be factually supported.
- Don't be frustrated by lack of data Many regions are data poor so think creatively:
- Use unconventional sources
- Ask Google and Google.org – they have a huge wealth of maps and data
- Gapminder contains a great deal of international and national data and indicators
- Consider resources such as the Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM) Tools Network for coastal and marine systems
- Consider surrogate or proxy indicators
- Use photographic evidence – pictures are very powerful