Each year, ICES stock assessment groups use an incredible number of hours preparing their reports. Incorporating and formatting the many tables and figures that illustrate the data used and the results of assessments is very time-consuming, and, as often numbers are copied manually across multiple data sources, prone to errors.
Now that ICES Transparent Assessment Framework tool (TAF) has been in operation for a few years, the community have proposed to expand this tool to include a scripted style of reporting the progress made within working groups. This should allow stock assessors to pull results directly from TAF into their report, without the need to copy or format any of the numbers, tables, and figures, saving a great deal of time that can be better spent on quality improvements of the stock assessments.
TAF was launched in 2018. It structures the entire ICES stock assessment procedure, making it more efficient while also providing all assessment data, methods, and results online. TAF is an online open resource and the open framework enables anyone to easily find, reference, and download information from any stage of the final process after the advice for a particular stock has been released, as all data input and output is fully traceable and versioned.
TAF acts as a cog in the process between input data and assessment results. And while there have been many TAF workshops since its launch in 2018, the TAF Reporting Workshop (WKREPTAF) is the first to look at the output of advice production, with the Advisory Committee also paying close attention to the outcomes. It is hoped that not only will the technical parts of the stock assessment become transparent, but also the way scientists report on it will be traceable and transparent.
Participants from the US, Canada, Norway, Ireland, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Spain worked towards a first reporting using TAF. By underpinning the community's focus on quality assurance, the workshop brought practical tools to allow assessment groups to produce standard outputs in an automated way, which will allow them to focus their efforts on improving other aspects of the assessment production, and reduce the number of unintended corrections that are part of the existing advice publication process. For that, a clear overview of what TAF has to offer and how that can contribute to saving time in the expert groups is needed. The workshop focused on these aspects, while also sharing and learning from previous experiences.
Niels Hintzen, Wageningen University and Research, chaired the workshop. “Although on paper it looks like a no-brainer to move towards scripted style of reporting, it's not an easy transition we propose. We all have a certain way of working together and usually that comes together in the report writing. We must be careful that everyone can maintain a full involvement in report writing, no matter personal technical skills. The outlook is bright, and we hope that this results in saving time that can be spend discussing the more science related topics, the one thing that brings us all together in the end. We expect that some groups may take up the scripted style of reporting this year already with others to follow in the upcoming years, depending on the pace at which stocks are being added to TAF."
WKREPTAF took place 11-12 January 2021.
Using TAF, WKREPTAF hope to simplify the reporting process for expert groups, especially stock assessment groups. Photo: Anders Thorsen, IMR