Friday, April 3, 2009

Update: Getting Out of the Catch-22

It's been just brilliant to watch the news about the article travel around the world. It started with Reuters, then took another spin after the article by Wired and You can also find some blog-entries here, here and here. Some of the comments posted online, have been positive. Others however, have been quite skeptical.

I think Glen Barry's comment in this blog captures our challenge pretty well: "While I welcome this avenue of inquiry, I am a little disappointed that you have not more effectively carried out this research already". I couldn't agree more, and that was also some of the comments I got from people at the Skoll Forum. But I want to be totally frank about a problem we have.

Discussions about this idea started already two years ago with colleagues at the Natural Resource Management group at Stockholm University. Since then, we have been applying for funding at least three times to do an actual test of this idea. And we get the same response every time: "interesting idea, but prove to us that it works before we can grant you some funding". Which is actually why we need funding in the first place. Welcome to the Catch-22 of academic innovation.

But, never give up, and here is I see the process progressing in the future:

Step 1 - make sure the idea is peer-reviewed to build scientific credibility (done)

Step 2 - building an alliance between leading ecologists, ICT experts, and interested government bodies, NGO's and other with "on the ground " experience (getting closer)

Step 3 - run a few pilot-projects to prove the practical applicability of the idea (pending funding, applications in the pipeline)

Step 4 - join forces with data visualization experts, example here. Only way to convince people that this might actually complement conventional environmental monitoring.

Step 5 - support others that want to explore the idea

Step 6 - it becomes obvious to the world that ecological monitoring will never be the same...

I'll get back to you all with how things proceed, and of interesting suggestions by colleagues and others. But until then, you can still post your comments to the article here. Let us know what you think.

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