Managing resources with R & Shiny

Lisa Pfeiffer / Economist, NWFSC, NOAA Fisheries

NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Fishery Management Council oversee the management of over 90 species of groundfish in U.S. Federal waters. These stocks are harvested in both commercial and recreational fisheries off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California. NOAA Fisheries collects many types of data to help guide the management of fisheries resources.

"Shiny Server Pro allows the people most familiar with the data, methodologies, and objectives to develop the web application.”

- Lisa Pfeiffer, Economist, NWFSC, NOAA Fisheries

The Challenge

Resource management plans affect people. It is critical to engage all interested and affected parties. Each individual has an interest in a unique subset of the information available. However, much of the data collected include economic and social data that is confidential in its raw format. This means that data requests are often handled on a time-consuming, case-by-case basis. The challenge is how to generate these bespoke analyses without requiring impractically lengthy efforts.

The Solution

There is considerable diversity of those interested in fishery management programs: individual fishermen, industries, environmental organizations, and academics. The solution needed to be user-driven, reliable, and easy to navigate. Flexibility was key. NOAA scientists wanted users to be able to view data at a resolution (by fishery, state, homeport) that would satisfy their needs while taking confidentiality issues into account. At the same time, it needed to be accessible to people without strong statistical, economic, or computer skills.

Why RStudio?

The team at NOAA fisheries has been using R and RStudio to process, analyze, and report on the catch share program for years. The RStudio package, Shiny, allowed them to build a useful online tool that utilizes the methods and code previously developed. Shiny Server Pro provided the ability to share the Shiny applications in a secure yet accessible way. In general, the research scientists analyzing and reporting fisheries management programs are not familiar with html and javascript, the languages needed to develop web pages. Using RStudio, Shiny, and Shiny Server Pro allows the scientists who know the data, methodologies, and objectives to develop the web application, rather than relying on an external web developer. Requests for new analyses or ways to view the data can be quickly developed and deployed.

The Payoff

Developing the website has allowed fishermen, industry, environmentalists and academics access to the data through easy downloads, met presidential mandates for data access, and created a learning tool. Fishermen can now compare how they are doing against the average vessel in their fishery. Perhaps the greatest payoff has been the ability of NOAA scientists to simply say, “Yes, I can show you that result, just let me pull up FISHEyE”.

RStudio provides open source and enterprise-ready professional software for data science teams using R and Python.