Dr Simon Wells

sesquipedalia verba

Gairloch Public Outreach Event

On the 4th of August we headed to the Gairloch Museum to do a public outreach event to mark the launch of our website for the WOSHH/SCOSHH projects. The West of Scotland Herring Hunt (WOSHH) is a William Grant Foundation funded project that focusses upon Herring spawning behaviour on the West coast of Scotland.

Historically, Herring were incredibly important to the economy of the West of Scotland, generating local income, and contrbuting to both local identity as well as influencing societal change. However Herring populations declined in the 1970s and haven’t yet recovered. The goal of the project is to identify and produce evidence for the conservation and restoration of herring spawning habitat on the west coast of Scotland.

So why is a computer scientist involved in a project like this? Partly, because sustainability and making the world a better place is important to me, and this kind of project is a way to engage with those goals, something that is harder to do from my core research interests. Initially, my involvement focusses on building websites and data collection tools. Ultimately, though, the data we collect will need to be analysed, and that is where things start to get interesting, reasoning about the data we have on Herring spawning behaviour, and predicting future behaviour. A second aspect is that we will ultimately make recommendations with respect to policy on future Herring fishing and engage with the various diverse stakeholders who are involved with Herring conservation, sustainability, and explotiation. This is a fraught and contentious area which could benefit from knowledge mapping tools, to help identify the standpoints, agreements, and disagreements of the various parties, and structured dialogue/interaction mechansisms to help parties to reason and deliberate towards mutually agreeable ends.

So, for me, it’s about pump-priming activities that enable me to apply my more theoretical Argumentation and Dialogue work to important, real-world, wicked problems.