Serendipity versus proactive search of elusive species - the Encounter Predictability Scorecard (EPS), a new customizable tool for field researchers
Since field research requires a lot of effort, time, economic and resource investment, it necessitates fact-based tools for a sound preliminary evaluation of the actual possibility to achieve its objective. Such a tool, the Encounter Predictability Scorecard (EPS), is here described for the first time. The rediscovery of the endemic Orthopteran Uromenus annae proved that field research is performed under strong biases including blind faith in previous scientific literature, and expectations about the biology and ecology of the target species. U. annae escaped field researches in the documented localities, and was rediscovered serendipitously in two new unrelated locations. This casts doubt on the capacity of field researchers to assess, even in general terms, the possibility of success of field expeditions. We conceived a method inspired by the performance management tools from the world of corporate strategy: scorecards. The most famous among closed-choice, qualitative-quantitative checklists, is the Balanced Scorecard, based on original work from the late 1980’s. We adapted those methods to the constraints of field research, and field-tested in a retrospective way for the search of U. annae. The EPS is freely available as a digital spreadsheet, and can be tested and customised at any time. Although in its infancy, the EPS looks like a promising operational tool to help saving time and money, and to identify which objectives and organizational setups are more promising. Besides providing a clearer, more rational basis for operational decisions, the straightforward compilation of an EPS may also mitigate the impact of cognitive biases.
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