FEATURE ARTICLE - A look back at the CRR series

As the entire series is digitized, Emory Anderson, Editor of ICES Cooperative Research Report series takes us from the first printed copies through to thelatest online offerings.
Published: 17 July 2021

​​​Sixty years! It's hard to believe that ICES Cooperative Research Report (CRR) series has been around for that long. The first issue was published in April 1962 and the most recent, No. 350, was published in December 2020. Now that the entire CRR series has been digitized and available on ICES website, it is appropriate to take a look back over the past sixty years of the series and gain a better appreciation of its function and importance.

Purpose and content

The original purpose of the series was to publish important reports prepared by ICES expert groups and by the Council's Liaison Committee (advisory body on fisheries) probably for two reasons: make them available to a wider readership than the respective working group and committee members, and to preserve them in a more permanent way than in their original, somewhat limited-distribution format. When first established, it was decided to issue these reports in two series: A and B. Series A contained reports from working groups and some international activities, while Series B contained annual reports from the Liaison Committee to the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC). The former were numbered, but the latter were only identified by the reporting year. The two series were continued separately until 1971, after which they were merged, without a series designation and with consecutive numbering following the original Series A numbering.

Decisions on what reports or materials were to be published in the series were made by the Council, generally based on recommendations emanating from a working group, committee, partnering organization, or client (e.g. NEAFC). Over the years, this decision-making process has evolved to the point where requests now from individuals, groups, or committees to publish specific reports in the series begin as draft resolutions that eventually are approved by the Science Committee (SCICOM) and ultimately the Council.

A broad range of topics has been covered in the CRR series. The first number was the report of the first meeting of the North-Western Working Group held in Copenhagen 27 February – 6 March 1961 whose purpose was to report on the fisheries off Iceland, East Greenland, and the Faroes. Interestingly, that meeting was chaired by Ray Beverton (UK); other participants included Jóan Pauli Joensen (Faroes), Ulrich Schmidt (Fed. Republic of Germany), Jón Jónsson (Iceland), Arvid Hylen (Norway), John Gulland (UK), and Rodney Jones (UK), all well-known fisheries scientists in ICES at the time.

Subsequent CRRs, aside from the Liaison Committee reports, were initially of meetings of selected fisheries working groups, summaries of working group findings over multiple years or meetings, and results of large-scale investigations and various international meetings on specific topics. In the 1960s, they pertained almost exclusively to fisheries, but by the 1970s, they began to include marine pollution as well as hydrography and oceanography. The first pollution-related CRR was No. 13 issued in July 1969 as the report of the meeting of the ICES Working Group on Pollution of the North Sea held in February 1968 and chaired by Herbert A. Cole (UK). Eventually, topics expanded to include the full range of scientific activities in which ICES was involved.

CRRs contained both research and advisory reports. Relative to the latter category, reports of the Liaison Committee, as noted above, were published in Series B until that series merged with Series A (research reports) in 1971. Later, with the establishment of the Advisory Committee on Marine Pollution (ACMP) in 1973 (renamed the Advisory Committee on the Marine Environment—ACME—in 1993), the Advisory Committee on Fishery Management (ACFM) in 1978 (replacing the Liaison Committee), and the Advisory Committee on Ecosystems in 2001, the annual reports of these three advisory bodies were published each year as CRRs until the early 2000s when ICES advisory reports began to be disseminated differently. At present, all scientific advice by ICES is provided by the Advisory Committee (ACOM) and made available as ICES Advice.

A review of the titles of the 360 volumes published indicates a wide variety of topics, but also that there are many repeat topics or titles. For example, aside from the long time-series of reports by ACMP/ACME (1974–2003) and ACFM (1978–2002), an annual Report on Ocean Climate, prepared by the Working Group on Oceanic Hydrography, has been published annually since 2002. Reports on 13 ICES Dialogue Meetings have been published, as well as four of the seven reports from the Bluefin Tuna Working Group (the fishery for this species was important in the Northeast Atlantic in the 1960s and early 1970s).

Whereas many CRRs at one time were based on reports of working groups, the tendency in recent years has been for them to be based on topics of interest investigated by specific expert groups rather than on individual or similar fish species or fisheries.

The original format of the volume covers was blue background and a black spine. After the Liaison Committee reports (Series B) were merged with Series A, they were identified with a red spine. As additional types of reports began to be included in the CRR series, the following spine colors were adopted as a means of more easily identifying them on a book shelf: red for ACFM (which replaced the Liaison Committee in 1978), yellow for ACMP, grey for fishery studies, green for pollution studies, and black for all others.

This identifying scheme was used until 1991 when the Council adopted English titles (with French subtitles) and new covers for all of its publication series. The first such CRR issued with the new cover was the Reports of the ICES Advisory Committee on Fishery Management, 1990, No. 173 published in March 1991.

Since then, the cover design has undergone several changes, with the most recent, ICES Report on Ocean Climate, 2019, No. 350, published in December 2020.​

Printing, distribution, and editorship

CRR volumes were initially printed by a commercial firm, but beginning in about 1973 or 1974, printing was done in-house. This continued until 1995 when printing was again done by a commercial firm. However, following the printing of No. 322, History of the ICES Advisory Committee on Fishery Management, 1978–2007, the printing of hard copies was discontinued, and all subsequent numbers were only available digitally online.

As with all ICES publication series, hard copies of the CRR series were available for purchase from the Secretariat at varying prices depending on the number of pages. In some years, their sales revenue was substantial and exceeded that for any of the Council's publications.

When the CRR series was introduced in 1962, the de facto editor was the General Secretary. However, most in-house editing or preparation of manuscripts for printing/publishing was done mainly by Secretariat staff. No peer-reviewing of drafts was done by independent scientists. Some individual CRRs were edited by specific individuals such as a member(s) of the expert group or committee which generated the report in question. At the 2007 meeting of ICES Publications Committee, I was appointed editor of the CRR series, a position that I have held until the present time. Also at about that time, peer-reviewing of all draft reports by independent experts began to be required so as to ensure a higher-quality and scientifically credible publication.

​Interesting facts and figures

A total of 360 issues have been published; the disparity between this number and the most recent volume number (No. 350) is because many ACFM reports in some years were published in two volumes for a given report. The average number of pages per volume over the time-series is about 120, with the largest being 948 pages (2002 ACFM report). The average number published per year is six, ranging from zero in several years to 11 in four different years (1978, 1981, 1992, and 1995), and to a high of 17 in 1977. The average per year for the last ten years (2011–2020) is 4.4.

Concluding remarks

The evolution of the CRR series over the past sixty years has witnessed a change from unpolished and non-peer-reviewed working group reports without stringent editorial oversight to a well-organized system of initial requests and approval for publication, mandatory peer-review, and editorial oversight all managed by Secretariat staff support guiding the overall process from start to finish. As a result, the CRR series is now a refined and respected publication series that produces high quality reports on timely and important topics used and respected by marine scientists within ICES and globally.

The entire ICES CRR series is now available to view and download.​​​

Upcoming issues will explore the collection of quality underwater acoustic data, methods for estimating discard survival​, and the Central Arctic Ocean.

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FEATURE ARTICLE - A look back at the CRR series

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