Monkeys Forest Tales: Why to collect good quality data?

In past weeks while working with my field data, as well as with other people data, reflections about how we collect field data for our research? How we teach our students to collect that data? And now, how we train our local collaborators to collect that data to help us with our research? Make me think about collecting good quality data. By good quality data, I mean data that can be used to understand biological processes but also help us to propose effective conservation actions for the species we work with.

When I started, over 25 years ago, collecting good quality data means detailed information about every observation I made about the monkeys for as long as possible. Then, while I was doing my doctorate, good quality data also means to collect data from as much places as possible, within a timeframe limited by financial resources. So, you basically must optimize the time you spend in the field collecting data. However, even when you collect just a few data for answering specific questions, the same detail should be observed as all that detail can explain the data patterns we observe from our data.

By this I mean, even if your timeframe is limited just be detailed on the data you collect and take advantage of all the technology available (if the environment allow you to have it) and collect additional details that help you contextualize the specific data you collect such a GPS point, a good picture or even better a video, talk with the local people and gather some historic information from the data…

Good data means, enough information so you can answer the questions you made before you went to collect that information. Even if the data was difficult to gather. It will be always difficult to gather, especially if you work in an uncertain environment, like field.

When you have spatial data, collecting good quality data also mean to know the equipment accuracy and what to collect as additional data that put your GPS points in context when you work with it. The reason for making emphasis on this good quality data is because that will help you understand better the kind of results your analysis give you and how that can be explained to make better decision for the animals you study and the people around them.

So, before going to the field or when training students and local assistant just remember to think about those additional details that can improve your data collection so you get better and useful results.

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