Workshop on developing guidance for ensuring the integrity of scientific information submitted to ices by data providers (WKEnsure)
Correction 16 May 2023: Annex 1 corrected.
The ICES Workshop on developing guidance for ensuring the integrity of scientific information submitted to ICES by data providers (WKEnsure) convened to develop guidance for identifying, assessing and managing potential conflict of interest (CoI) in data and information provision that may affect the integrity of ICES science and advice. Such guidance will contribute to protecting the legitimacy of ICES advice when data or data-providers with potential CoI are involved. Such guidance is required in support of the integration of an increasing number of data and information contributions by third parties, usually stakeholders such as the fishing industry and environmental organizations, often in response to existing knowledge gaps.
WKEnsure consisted of a diversity of participants from several ICES countries as well as New Zealand, with different affiliations and varying degrees of experience in working within the ICES system, which proved to be very useful to the discussions. No conflicts of interest were declared during the meeting.
Participants reviewed existing guidance, standards, tools, and documentation from both within and outside ICES. In our review of CoI in data provision to ICES, we only found one example dating a decade ago. However, we identified a number of possible areas where CoI in data pro-vision could occur, relating to both traditional as well as new data providers. With an increasing number of data streams for both traditional and new or future advisory products, including data provisions from third parties, risks of CoI occurrence could become higher. It is therefore im-portant that ICES extends its CoI declaration routine to participation in expert groups to include evaluation of CoI in data provision. This should be irrespective of whom the data providers are. This includes flagging possible CoI at data entry points and evaluation of the potential impact and likelihood of a CoI using a suggested template. The existing Data Profiling Tool offers op-portunities to flag potential CoI in data provision, but should be slightly modified to include questions which will help highlighting potential CoI. The use of the revised Data Profiling Tool should be extended to all other data flows into the ICES system, starting with benchmarks. Iden-tifying potential risks for CoI should also take place at ACOM level when evaluating special requests.
It is important to maintain a track record of how potential CoI were identified, evaluated and managed; both in relation to CoI in data provision as well as CoI in relation to participation in expert groups. Societal changes where social media are getting a bigger role in influencing polit-ical debate pose increasing risks. A perceived CoI, even though it is not an actual CoI could have big consequences as our review showed in a case study from New Zealand. It is also important to note that managing perceived CoI, once it is out in the public sphere, is extremely difficult to handle. Having due processes and keeping a track record will help discussions with stakeholders and clients but will not easily change stakeholders’ and public perception. Therefore it is im-portant to have key elements of a communications strategy in place.
Published under the auspices of the following ICES Steering Group or Committee