Professional Specialty Groups are composed of representatives from NOAA Fisheries headquarters, regional offices and science centers, Fisheries Information Networks, and state partners. There are currently four PSGs: Coder, Electronic Technologies, Pacific Highly Migratory Species, and Quality Management and Continuous Improvement. Through the PSGs and targeted competitive funding, FIS is improving and enhancing products at each phase of the fisheries-dependent data life cycle.
Following the recommendations of the Fisheries Information Management Modernization initiative, FIS took the lead on establishing the Coder PSG in 2021. Exploring innovative ways to ensure that software systems and tools work in synergy across NOAA and our partners, the PSG held its inaugural meeting in February 2021.
The Coder PSG has created working groups to better understand how various resources are being used by different offices and regions, including one that is identifying the range of collaborative tools in use as well as their strengths and limitations. Based on its findings, the group will develop a network of resource pages for development teams throughout NOAA Fisheries. The PSG has also begun a project to catalog and analyze the composition of information technology teams throughout regional offices, science centers, headquarters offices, and partners to begin identifying potential gaps and best practices. Group meetings have featured demonstrations and presentations on topics including development pipelines and Federal Information Security Management Act compliance. Moving forward, the PSG will work to bolster the software development process across NOAA Fisheries. This will include efforts to scope and curate a shared IT knowledge center, and promote the use of centralized, integrated IT tools.
Electronic Technologies PSG
The Electronic Technologies PSG convenes experts from different regions and areas of expertise to share best practices and lessons learned from electronic reporting and monitoring programs and pilot projects across the country. This occurs both through regional round-robins at each monthly PSG meeting, and via regular Center of Expertise presentations that provide insight to a larger audience of colleagues and partners. In 2021, presentations included, “Insights into Effective Data Sharing: A Pacific Highly Migratory Species Fisheries Case Study” and “Moving from an Electronic Reporting/Electronic Monitoring EFP to a Regulated Program in Alaska”.
As electronic reporting and monitoring programs continue to evolve, the PSG is evaluating new ways of providing support to electronic technologies initiatives and addressing the most pressing cross-cutting needs in the field.
Highly Migratory Species PSG
The Pacific Highly Migratory Species PSG brings together data managers and users from the Pacific Islands, West Coast, Atlantic HMS program, and NOAA Fisheries headquarters with the mission of creating an integrated, accessible data system for highly migratory species in the Pacific. The group works in the areas of communications, electronic reporting and modernization, data reporting and business rules, and data sharing.
The PSG concluded the first phase of a collaboration among the Pacific Fisheries Information Network and the West Coast and Pacific Islands regional observer programs in 2021 to develop an electronic reporting application for pelagic HMS fisheries observers. Instead of paper forms, the Onboard Record Collection Application (ORCA) allows observers to instantly and accurately enter the vital data they collect using a tablet. The PSG also initiated a project to identify ways to improve tracking of the numerous business rules and data reporting requirements related to regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) and treaties to which the U.S. is a member. The work will ensure efficiency of effort in the communication, collaboration, and coordination of these submissions. And as the Pacific Islands region transitioned to mandatory electronic reporting for longline fisheries, the PSG has played an integral role in fostering support for the project by opening lines of communication among regions. It has also led a joint data access project with the Office of Science and Technology to enable permit holders to view the data collected aboard their vessels.
Quality Management and Continuous Improvement PSG
The Quality Management and Continuous Improvement PSG helps enhance processes and improve data assets by collaborating across NOAA Fisheries and with our partners to embed QM/CI practices into organizational culture. Whether it’s combining complex and divergent information streams into a single, accessible data source, or creating a strategic plan to drive a good idea from the whiteboard to the field, the QM/CI PSG has tools, resources and funding available to help solve the everyday challenges faced by scientists, managers, and others who work with fisheries data.
The PSG worked with the Alaska Regional Offices Learning Team in 2021 to develop a series of trainings to teach AKRO staff quality management principles and introduce a set of tools to incorporate those principles as part of their work routine. Over the course of 10 weekly training sessions, participants received an overview of QM and introductions to 11 QM tools focusing on information flow, project management, and process mapping. The region now has a toolbox with templates and one-pagers hosted on its intranet for easy access and ongoing reference. The new toolbox can also serve as a model for other regions and partners to expand the practice of QM and promote process improvements throughout the fisheries data community.