validity of these indices. Debates about these numbers do not involve who calculated them. Similarly, ecological indicators need to be based on calculations that are well defined and agreed on.
In addition to being based on credible measurements and calculations, the choice, motivation, and interpretation of indicators should be publicly trusted for them to be of greatest use. That means that the people and organizations who produce the indicators should be generally trusted (Greenwalt 1992). The committee cannot specify the best methods for achieving this goal, but notes that in at least some cases separating the responsibility for preparing indicators from responsibility for carrying out policies based on them seems to enhance trust in the indicators. For example, the Bureau of Census has no policy-making responsibility; so, despite recent political arguments about the validity of sampling as opposed to counting everyone, the population estimates produced by the Bureau are usually trusted. Similarly, the National Weather Service has no responsibility for environmental policies, and so, beyond some scientific questions about the nature and placement of its instruments, its statistics are generally widely respected and trusted. The importance of public trust in the indicators is even more critical if ecological indicators are to be used as input for a national assessment of the state of the nation’s ecosystems.
Crucially important in the data collection process is that the data satisfy standards of timeliness, level of detail, accuracy, accessibility to users, coverage or completeness, and credibility of the data collection and management processes using the data. Because data collections and use will be at various spatial scales, data system designers must allow for demands among users at these various scales. Any system must be able to deal with the needs of users to work at different spatial resolutions and different degrees of timeliness. For the National Marine Fisheries Service, credibility is a major concern. Many stakeholders mistrust data that are collected and analyzed by the same agency that makes policy recommendations, conducts stock assessments, and enforces fishery regulations. These multiple responsibilities create mistrust about the collection and use of fisheries data (NRC 2000d).
Recommendation 6.7: The committee recommends that an independent body separate from APHIS be charged with the development of a monitoring program. This monitoring program/database should allow participation by agencies, independent scientists, industry, and public-interest groups. The database depository should be available to researchers and the interested public.
Establishment of a database depository would build stronger confidence and allow access to more data if collection techniques were standardized. Major advances in monitoring could be achieved by establish-