The Transparent Assessment Framework (TAF) is a system aimed at better structuring of the entire ICES stock assessment procedure and making it more efficient, having all assessment data, methods, and results available online. The open framework enables anyone to easily find, reference, and download information from any stage of the final process after the advice for a particular stock has been released.
The TAF acts as a middle cog in the process between input data and assessment results. It connects to existing services such as the fisheries and surveys databases on the input end, while submitting output data to the stock assessment database at the other.
The process of running assessments using the TAF has now begun. Five fish stocks are already on the system and the coming year will see more follow as the various assessment expert groups hold their annual meetings. Most recently members of the Working Group on the Biology and Assessment of Deep-sea Fisheries Resources (WGDEEP) were guided through the new framework by Arni Magnusson of the ICES Secretariat, who along with Colin Millar, has been developing TAF over the last two years. Together they ran the assessment of the Icelandic ling stock, one of those under WGDEEP's remit.
Pamela Woods, fisheries scientist at the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute in Iceland and member of WGDEEP, outlined how the TAF could benefit the group's work.
“Often we work solitarily, and it takes a lot of effort to transition all this knowledge from one person to the next. Keeping it organized for someone else to understand can only help with the workflow. It's also about safety. You always want to have multiple people understand the process and the information that goes into it."
As well as bringing further peer-review, another advantage of the TAF is that it enables assessments to be reproduced. This is evident in two ways: firstly, all aggregated data files are openly accessible, including those involved with the pre-processing of data, and secondly, the ability of TAF to work across different computer operating systems (it is platform independent). This ensures reproducibility goes beyond just a few experts, to the advice drafting groups (ADGs) and the Advisory Committee (ACOM), whose members can look back over the data documentation and rerun the assessment. On top of this, it further opens ICES data and assessments up to scientists around the world.
Another group dealing with the TAF was the Working Group on the Assessment of Demersal Stocks in the North Sea and Skagerrak (WGNSSK). Chair José De Oliveira explained how the new system was a step forward.
“The TAF is more structured around clarity and transparency and anyone using it should be able to run an assessment, from data preparation, to assessment model, to advice forecasts. This is hugely powerful, will streamline how groups work, and will make it much easier to hand over a stock to a new assessor. It will also be easier to conduct audits of advice."