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Protecting Whales Through Data Cooperatives

Updated: Apr 27, 2021

Data is power. Data equals leverage, funding, and the opportunity to ask the specific questions you want answered.

Data collection is usually expensive and time consuming, so large research institutions leverage partnerships with data collecting groups (citizen scientists, small conservation organizations, etc.) saving money and generally improving their data sets. Some of the benefits of this methodology are local stakeholder involvement in data collection, and community awareness of the research that is happening in specific localities.

But through this familiar process, the people who actually collect the data lose ownership of it, and with it, they lose opportunities.

Data collecting organizations often don’t get a say in how the data are used, what questions the data are being used to answer, or with whom it is shared or not shared once it is turned over to the large organization requesting it. Typically, the data end up being owned by the government, large research institutions, or very large non-profits, and it is usually siloed in a centralized location with limited access. We believe this traditional data flow structure inhibits community self-reliance and contributes to an inequitable and unjust world.

Additionally, in recent years, conservation scientists in the United States have become only too familiar with the way data can be spotlighted or hidden away to advance political agendas. Governmental agencies shift how they share, manipulate, or destroy data based on mandates of changing administrations. (That said, we have seen amaz