After the release of the Version 1 of the field manual package in early 2018, efforts were focussed on outreach to increase the adoption of the field manuals by the broader marine science community in Australia, as well as industry, regulators, and policymakers. This was done initially through conference presentations and face-to-face meetings, with follow-up meetings and questionnaires to gauge the success of adoption. Outreach and engagement efforts were focussed on establishing institutional uptake of the field manuals, rather than just individual uptake. This ensures the continuity and long-term applicability of the SOPs even if advocating individuals leave an agency. Ultimately, institutional uptake will maximise the comparability of datasets from various surveys, thus increasing the amount of comparable data able to be applied to national products and syntheses.
The field manuals are not just applicable to the Australian community; they are also valuable to the international community, both regarding their content and the process used to develop them. The latter was addressed in a scientific journal paper (Przeslawski et al 2019a), while the content is available through the international searchable Ocean Best Practice Repository (www.oceanbestpractices.org) (Pearlman et al 2019).
Support was available to develop a Version 2 of this field manual package following additional community consultation and input. There will be a need to develop subsequent versions for the following reasons:
- Keeping up with technological advances to ensure uniformity of data acquisition across multiple agencies over time is a challenge for some platforms, particularly those that are based on rapidly advancing technology (e.g. AUV, MBES). In order to ensure that field manuals include relevant advances, they should be periodically checked and revised, lest they become superseded or obsolete.
- Over time, opportunities may arise for increasing the amount of standardisation between research providers. This may come from the acquisition of new sampling gear, changes in research staff, or development of new projects and monitoring programmes.
- The way in which the data are stored in aggregated databases will evolve over time. Currently, for many platforms, there is a competitive environment within this area. Competition is a force for change, and so change is likely to occur. The ‘Data Release’ sections of each manual will almost certaintly need to be updated by 2025 to account for these developments and provide clearer and more definitive instructions (e.g. Przeslawski et al 2019d).
- Each field manual has a sub-section on uses of the sampling platform in marine monitoring. This will need to be periodically updated to include new research and monitoring outcomes.
- One of the strengths of this field manual package is the collaborative approach taken to ensure representation of a range of organisations and disciplines. As time passes, this representation will become increasingly outdated, and new and different researchers should be given the opportunity to contribute.
- Suggestions about standard vocabularies for metadata are currently lacking, and there is an opportunity to help guide the AODN and other programs regarding controlled metadata vocabularies in future versions.
- The new online platform managed through GitHub Pages was chosen partly due to the inherent version control features. Nonetheless, an update or new system to host these field manuals may be required in the future.
A long-term plan for managing the field manuals has not yet been developed, with the exception of the multibeam field manual which will be overseen by AusSeabed. Efforts are still needed to establish a high-level oversight committee to develop and implement actions needed for future versions and to strengthen institutional uptake. At the time of writing this introduction, the most likely groups for this responsibility are the National Marine Science Committee’s Monitoring and Environmental Baseline working group, the AODN and/or a future iteration of the NESP Marine Hub.