The ABARES Social Sciences team carried out the Making General Surveillance Work project from 2018 until 2021.
The project followed the increasing expectation that all Australians will play a greater role in supporting Australia’s biosecurity system. The IGAB National Surveillance and Diagnostics Framework along with other key strategic reports (Craik, 2017; CoAg, 2012; Beale et al, 2008) highlight surveillance as a key opportunity for citizen support.
Traditionally, biosecurity surveillance has been carried out by government and to some extent industry, often in a fully structured way, such as according to formal protocols. This is referred to as active or specific surveillance. However, there is an increasing interest to harness opportunities to capture surveillance data and information from a wider range of sources including elements of flexibility. This is referred to as general surveillance. General surveillance programs refers to engaging people from all walks of life in the monitoring and reporting of pests, weeds and diseases.
While general surveillance is making a valuable contribution, it remains seen as an ‘untapped resource’ (2015 Marine Biosecurity Review) and it is still seen as an area where industry and the community can increase ownership and participation (Craik, 2017). General surveillance programs are known to be challenging to instigate and maintain (Crall et al. 2012).
The project was initiated in response to general surveillance in Australia being challenged by fragmentation. On-ground programs have been initiated in different jurisdictions and by different sectors (animal, plant, marine and environmental biosecurity) often with limited sharing of lessons learned between them.
While there has been a growing body of literature, much of it focuses on certain components of general surveillance programs. For example, some papers report on the contribution that fortuitous detections make to a country’s biosecurity system; others report on aspects of specific campaigns to gain and maintain volunteer support; while others focus on new data collection technologies or data management approaches. What has been lacking is systems thinking to deepen understanding about the key components of general surveillance programs and the interactions between them.
The project had three objectives.
- To explore, learn about and gain a high-level understanding of the structural components of general surveillance programs, i.e. the linkages and feedbacks within and across structural components, at various scales and within various sectors, using a systems-based approach.
- To provide generic holistic guidance and considerations about planning, implementing and monitoring general surveillance programs, recognising that programs need to be fit for purpose.
- To explore if there is value in the establishment of a community of practice to facilitate cross-learning and economies of scale between general surveillance initiatives and how such community of practice may function.
The project involved three phases:
Phase 1 (November 2018 – November 2019)
- Established a steering committee across all sectors, government, industry and research
- Reviewed literature on general surveillance, including the development of a draft framework for the analysis of general surveillance initiatives based on systems thinking that could be applied in different contexts.
- A stocktake of existing general surveillance initiatives across Australia and New Zealand.
Phase 2 (March 2020 – June 2021)
- Profiled nine general surveillance case studies in different contexts. The case studies were selected in consultation with the steering committee and other key stakeholders.
- Drafted high level guidelines for general surveillance programs based on the findings from the literature review and the case studies.
Phase 3 (July 2021 – December 2021)
- Conducted a stakeholder workshop to verify and refine the draft General Surveillance Program Guidelines (the Guidelines). The workshop was also used to explore the value of a community of practice to facilitate cross-learning and economies of scale between general surveillance initiatives and how such community of practice may function.
- Finalised the Guidelines, and developed checklists for program staff; policy-makers and senior staff; and funders.
- Produced the research report that contains the detailed case study research findings.