A future is within reach wherein fishery information systems become a powerful driver of productivity, innovation and performance for managers and industry alike. There is a clear path for legacy systems to be updated, repurposed and integrated with user needs at the center of the process. We are optimistic that user-centered design, underpinned by an improved management infrastructure, can establish information as a strategic asset and operational priority for NMFS; one that increasingly lies at the center of its decision-making.
The specific challenges faced by NMFS in streamlining fishery information systems are unique. But in many important respects they are also analogous to the challenges faced by other government agencies struggling with legacy systems – whether it be the shift by Veterans Affairs to electronic medical records, the Census Bureau’s reimagining of its 2020 survey, or the National Archives’ push to more effectively catalogue and make available its collection. In each case, a system powered by user-centered design emerged from reforms focused on Policy, Product, People and Process. We recommend the new administration, with support from Congress, prioritize the acceleration of similar reforms at NMFS.
- Policy: NMFS leadership has an important role to play in reviewing and reforming national policy to catalyze the streamlining of fisheries information. Policies should consistently seek to promote user-centered data as a core feature of fisheries management, ensuring that data are available, discoverable and useable to the greatest extent possible for business, innovation, science and management.
- Product: It is vital that information systems evolve to more effectively meet the needs of a broader range of users. Open, secure architecture and clear data and performance specifications are the building blocks for effective product design. These features will support information access, increased accuracy, flexible uses and innovative, cost-effective tool development by managers and stakeholders alike.
- People: User-centered data systems will only emerge through the leadership of expert agency staff and management partners (including states, interstate organizations and Regional Councils), through cooperation with private sector partners, and via the involvement of users themselves through stakeholder consultation and participation in design and co-development. The work and involvement of these individuals must be resourced and supported, and individual roles and accountability for systems and data quality must be clarified and clear.
- Process: User-centered design processes have the potential to improve efficiency and allow new paradigms to emerge. As fishery information products improve, they must be accompanied by more efficient and effective integration processes to ensure their potential is realized.