By Peter Horvat
FISH magazine has been a key part of the FRDC’s communication and extension activities for the past 20 years. The first issue was published in January 1993, soon after the FRDC was established.
The FRDC has evolved, as has the magazine and the way it engages with its readers to deliver information on the results of research and development.
Late in 2012, the FRDC undertook a survey of readers’ views and areas in which the magazine can be improved.
Getting the right balance for editorial policy and story selection is a challenge for all magazines. With FISH’s diverse readership, the task becomes even more complex. The reader survey and feedback showed that many readers are not sure who sets the editorial policy and chooses the stories.
The simple answer is that the FRDC does both. The FRDC receives suggestions and input from a range of people, including researchers, fishers and writers, but the final decision remains with the FRDC Communications unit.
The core focus for all FISH stories is science and innovation – new developments or research findings; what issues need work, what’s being done and how new knowledge can be used by all fishing sectors, governments and researchers.
The FRDC does not comment on government policy or decisions. That is not our role. The key purpose of FISH magazine is to highlight the research that is going on across the country, whether just beginning, mid-stream or complete.
It provides a way for the end users of research to be aware of what is being done and learned, and to follow up and use the knowledge that has been generated from FRDC projects.
FISH magazine uses a number of approaches. In some cases, we provide straight factual reporting of the outcomes of a project; in other cases we will use personal case studies (industry experiences) to highlight and provide examples of adoption or adaptation, of success or failure. In science, failure can be just as crucial a source of knowledge as more readily attained success.
One question raised by readers related to timing of stories on projects. The FRDC tries to provide information on newly funded projects, ongoing activities and findings or outcomes. However, progress reports are not always possible. Many researchers are reticent to provide updates or findings during a project, because they don’t believe they have the ‘full picture’ yet.
The FRDC is working hard to get information into the public domain as part of the broader National Extension and Adoption Strategy. For each project we ensure that the researchers have an extension strategy in place and that they communicate regularly with key stakeholders.
The FRDC received more than 100 suggestions for ways to improve or change FISH. As noted in this article, there are some we cannot do, such as political commentary. There are some stories that are not practical in a quarterly magazine, such as providing a weekly list of fish prices. However, there were a number of suggestions that we will endeavour to act upon.
Readers were keen to see more stories on recreational fishing; research and fisheries breakthroughs from overseas; and more profiles – stories that provide a personal insight into how people do things, what others are learning and the results of their research adoption.
It is clear that people want stories that are focused on a specific sector. For example, a large percentage of our stories have an environment or fish stock focus, but it seems that readers from commercial or recreational sectors don’t associate these issues with their interests and concerns, even though there are clear links.
Another area that will be explored and where some changes will be made is developing a better electronic delivery system for those who want it. At present FISH is available from the FRDC website as a PDF and a number of articles are online in a basic text format. It is clear that having a version that is accessible on smartphones and tablets is becoming more important.
As changes are made we will keep readers informed and, where possible, seek feedback from readers on those changes.
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