The costs and benefits of publicising species discoveries.

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Gerard Ryan , Emily Nicholson, Christopher Baker, Michael McCarthy


Public information about where species are found can influence what happens to them – from building support to protect their habitat, to telling poachers where to find a target. Recent heated scientific debate about whether to release information about species’ locations when new species or populations are found have highlighted the trade-off between the risk of damage or loss versus the benefits of funding and public support. But no research so far has considered how such decisions are actually made, and no decision tools easily compare a range of decision-making scenarios. Here we present a simple decision tool to compare the costs and benefits of decisions about the disclosure of information about newly-discovered species and populations. We implement our method for seven ongoing conservation projects, where information about a species is currently completely or partially secret. We ask decision-makers to estimate the costs and benefits associated these case studies, and apply our method to them. The method is a structured but flexible approach to making decisions about whether to publicised the discovery of species, and one that can allow the process of decision-making to be transparent and easily communicated if needs be.



Applied Mathematics, Biodiversity, Biology


decision theory, Risk, Risk Analysis, threatened species


Published: 2024-02-09 23:19

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CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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Conflict of interest statement:

Data and Code Availability Statement:
All data for this study, including simulated and questionnaire data, and the questionnaire template is available at R-language code to reproduce the analyses and figures is available at