Conducting marine research in the Antarctic is expensive – ships are expensive to run and cost even more to replace. This has been highlighted in the media surrounding those national Antarctic programs currently in the process of procuring multidisciplinary research and logistics vessels. The paper by Godø and others is a slight departure from the ‘normal’ science paper in that it does not describe the results of a standard research project, but describes potential new ways to conduct research. Scientists and commercial companies working together to optimise the design of a fishing vessel so that it can conduct high-quality marine research is an exciting prospect. As a science community we are unlikely to have cheap options for doing marine research in the Antarctic, so perhaps the emphasis needs to be on a new way of using existing platforms, including fishing vessels, to better assist researchers. In a similar vein, the paper by Mugue et al. on the circumpolar genetics of toothfish would not have been possible without the data collected by scientific observers on board fishing vessels.
The two papers by Mormede and colleagues on the management of the Ross Sea toothfish fishery are a welcome addition to the body of scientific work in this region. So much work goes into the science underpinning CCAMLR’s management of this fishery and yet much of the detail remains somewhat hidden in the ‘grey’ literature and CCAMLR reports. I use the term ‘grey’ with trepidation as I think that it understates the actual level of ‘peer-review’ that many papers are exposed to in providing management advice to CCAMLR.
The relative anonymity of the peer-review process that most scientists are exposed to is quite different to the process of review when taking science into the management sphere. If an author submits a paper to a particular journal and the paper is declined, then there are likely to be a number of alternative journals to which the paper (hopefully revised in the light of the reasons for the decline) could be submitted. There are no such alternatives when submitting a paper that aims to change the way CCAMLR undertakes a particular aspect of its management; so the process can take a while. Getting an email from an editor with the reviewers’ comments on your paper can sometimes be hard. Having those reviewers in the room as you present your paper to an expert group can present quite a different challenge.
However, the same basic principle of good science underlies both of these review processes. The audiences are different and so the presentation of the results and conclusions has to be tailored to maximise the impact of the work. Developing appropriate metrics to measure impact, whether it is the impact factor of a journal or the impact on the management of marine resources, is a challenge, but it is a challenge that deserves to be addressed to ensure that the range of excellent science that is conducted in support of bodies like CCAMLR receives appropriate recognition by the academic community. Furthermore, ensuring that such science is appropriately recognised will, hopefully, encourage more of the global research community to re-examine how the impact of their science is defined and the ways in which it could have a real impact.