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Open Source Conservation?
Alex Steffen, 2 Aug 04

If we're going to check the appalling destruction of nature around the world, we need to quickly and widely redistribute knowledge about how to preserve and restore natural systems. We need a lot more people working to save forests and rivers, grasslands and reefs, and using the best available tools to do it.

But can the best scientific standards and management practices used to guide ecological restoration and preservation work be compiled, made available and open to all? The folks at the The Conservation Measures Partnership -- a coalition involving groups like Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Society, and World Wide Fund for Nature/World Wildlife Fund -- argue that they can, and must:

"The conservation community finds itself at a critical time in its evolution – a time when there is great convergence in thinking about how best to plan and implement conservation actions. Making the most of the extensive, trial-and-error experience gained by conservation organizations while designing, implementing and appraising their conservation projects, we have developed a set of project cycle or adaptive management open standards that are reflected in the work of all of our organizations and are, we believe, fundamental to conducting good conservation. These standards are less a recipe that must be followed exactly than a framework and guidance for conservation action."

Their model is explicitly open scource software, and their goal is to collaboratively evolve a non-proprietary, best-practices framework of standards and methods for planning and monitoring conservation projects. It's the Linux of the critter-saving world.

Towards that end, they have released an initial document (PDF and slow for me) outlining their approach. CMP is also developing other tools including a "Rosetta Stone" lexicon of scientific terms and their analogs in various disciplines, standardized accounting and auditing standards, and so on.

We've written a lot about open access and open source as a model. It's nice to see the conservation community jumping in with both feet.

(Tip of the hat to Jon Christensen's blog Conservation News.)

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