Step 5: Establishing a Baseline for Selected Indicators

One of the principal tasks of data collection for MSP should focus on collection and organizing information about the state of the marine area in a specified base year that should be as close as possible to the current year. A baseline of information about each of the indicators selected in the previous step is necessary before actual monitoring of the indicators begins.

Building baseline information for selected indicators

Baseline information should be built for indicators that will be used to measure the performance of each management action. Some key questions that should be asked when building the baseline information include:

  • What will be the sources of the data? Will they be qualitative or quantitative data?
  • What will be the data collection methods?
  • Who will collect the data?
  • What is the cost and difficulty to collect the data?
  • Who will analyze the data?
  • Who will report the data?
  • Who will use the data?

The answers to these questions and the ability to develop and access these data will vary from country to country. The selected performance indicators, and the data collection strategies used to track those indicators, need to be grounded in the realities of what data are available, what data can presently be delivered, and what capacity exists to expand the breadth and depth of data collection and analysis over time.

Data Collection

It’s important to collect only the data that will be used in the performance evaluation (Step 6). After all, performance information should be a management tool—and there is no need to collect information that managers are not going to use.

As a rule of thumb, only collect baseline information that relates directly to the performance questions and indicators that you have identified. Do not spend time collecting other information.

Before any decisions are made on the data collection strategies to deploy, it is important to check with the users and stakeholders. Try to determine their level of comfort with the tradeoffs and with the sorts of performance information they will be receiving. Data collection strategies necessarily involve some tradeoffs with respect to cost, precision, credibility, and timeliness. For example, the more structured and formal methods for collecting data generally tend to be more precise, costly, and time consuming. It may be preferable to adopt less precise, more unstructured, and inexpensive data collection strategies if data are needed frequently and on a routine basis to inform management decision-making.

Go back to Step 4: Identifying Indicators and Targets or continue reading Step 6: Monitoring Indicators of Management Performance