integrity; data access, sharing, and ownership; and data stewardship and management plans. The National Research Council report concluded that explicitly outlining the roles and responsibilities of the various entities—data providers, host institutions, and data users—is essential.
In this report, the committee has not repeated information that was so thoroughly reviewed elsewhere. Rather, it has described the current situation for sea-turtle data and has recommended what should be done to make data accessible for research and management and to reduce the risk of data loss.
The fractured status and lack of coordination of sea-turtle databases are major impediments to the management and conservation of sea turtles. Throughout the United States, hundreds of projects (of varied duration) have been established to monitor sea-turtle populations and conduct research on sea-turtle biology. The projects have been conducted by people in federal and state agencies, universities, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and by private individuals.
Data resulting from those projects have varied integrity, accessibility, and stewardship. The integrity (structural completeness, including metadata [data that provides information about other data]) and quality of the data vary greatly, depending on many factors. Quality control of data collection is a major factor. Factors affecting data-collection quality include the extent and consistency of training given to data collectors; the experience and number of data collectors; and the quality of equipment used, such as tags and instruments to measure turtles. Transcription of data from field or laboratory notes to digital databases is a common source of errors. Quality control of data transcription is essential to maintain the integrity of the database. Accurate metadata can help to offset some data-quality problems. For example, accurate reporting of annual survey efforts can offset problems of uneven effort among years. An important difficulty in sea-turtle count data is understanding whether each zero count is the result of the absence of turtles or the result of zero effort.
Many databases resulting from sea-turtle studies have little or no access for people other than the data owners. Data accessibility is determined by the willingness of a data owner to share the data, the ease of data use, and the presence of essential metadata so that data can be interpreted. Some data, particularly those from federal and state agencies, are available as digital databases but only in summary form.
Current stewardship of the data resulting from the projects ranges from well-curated, computerized databases with safeguarded backups to boxes of loose data sheets stored in a single vulnerable location. Data