Human-mediated environmental changes have resulted in appropriate concern for the conservation of ecological systems and have led to the development of many ecological monitoring programs worldwide. Many programs that are identified with the purpose of 'surveillance' represent an inefficient use of conservation funds and effort. Here, we revisit the 1964 paper by Platt and argue that his recommendations about the conduct of science are equally relevant to the conduct of ecological monitoring programs. In particular, we argue that monitoring should not be viewed as a stand-alone activity, but instead as a component of a larger process of either conservation-oriented science or management. Corresponding changes in monitoring focus and design would lead to substantial increases in the efficiency and usefulness of monitoring results in conservation.