[Taxacom] De-extinction & Rhachistia aldabrae

John Grehan calabar.john at gmail.com
Fri Oct 24 06:57:43 CDT 2014

With respect to Stephen's comment "I suspect though that ken is correct in
that some of them really don't want to have their
 identifications challenged by amateurs." I also suspect that that may be
true. Of course it may not be true, but this is just a suspicion. I really
don't know.

In reality there are scientists in every field who don't want to be
challenged, but anyone let along 'amateurs' (I guess I am an amateur as I
am not professionally employed as a scientist). Heck - there are even
doctors who don't like to be challenged by their patients. I guess we live
with human nature until we evolve into something better.

John Grehan

On Thu, Oct 23, 2014 at 7:52 PM, Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>

> I think that the reluctance of many professional scientists to engage with
> "citizen science" projects has a simple explanation. To be generous to
> them, it is because their time is limited and they get nothing out of it
> compared to other things that they could be doing instead (unless they get
> paid for "outreach", but that is a whole other can of worms). I used to
> wonder why few scientists were at all interested in creating and
> maintaining a page on Wikispecies, listing their publications. Isn't it
> good to advertise one's publications? But then I see that they all rush to
> sites like Mendeley and ResearchGate, for, I suggest, 2 reasons: (1) these
> are perceived (probably wrongly) as more "official" and "bona fide"; and
> (2) all visits to their page/publication get quantified, so they can get
> some "kudos" by having more visits than some of their peers, etc. I suspect
> though that ken is correct in that some of them really don't want to have
> their
>  identifications challenged by amateurs.
> Stephen
> --------------------------------------------
> On Fri, 24/10/14, Walker, Ken <kwalker at museum.vic.gov.au> wrote:
>  Subject: Re: [Taxacom] De-extinction & Rhachistia aldabrae
>  To: "John Grehan" <calabar.john at gmail.com>
>  Cc: "Taxacom" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
>  Received: Friday, 24 October, 2014, 12:15 PM
>  John,
>  Thanks for your question and I am not surprised that you see
>  no association between “"natural history amateurs” and
>  “citizen science”.  It is a typical scientific
>  response.
>  I recently read a definition of “citizen science” used
>  by the global biodiversity player “Earthwatch”.  It
>  read: “Citizen science is the structured research
>  undertaken as an active partnership between scientists and
>  the wider community”.
>  The world is awash with social media and yet many in the
>  scientific community believe that without the overriding
>  intervention of scientists to formulate structured research
>  projects, then the independent efforts by amateurs is not
>  real science.
>  One of the model project often quoted here in Australia as a
>  good example of “citizen science” is the “Great Koala
>  Count”.  A scientific institution has developed a
>  recording mobile phone/tablet app that “citizen
>  scientists” download and then walk around recording where
>  they see koalas.  It also records the absence of
>  records every 15 minutes.  The project runs over a 2
>  week period and has been repeated over a number of
>  years.  The scientists love it – amateurs spending
>  their time gathering distribution data about a single,
>  easily identifiable taxon.
>  However, some of the amateurs who have contributed to this
>  project have raised interesting issues.
>  1.    No one can ask a question on the app.
>  The scientists appear they are not willing to engage with
>  the public.
>  2.    The app itself does not deliver any results
>  of the survey.  Indeed, there is no link from the app
>  to the website where the results are delivered.
>  3.    The results website has simply reused an old
>  survey excel format as for every record it repeats the name
>  of the taxon recorded – A koala!
>  I define citizen science projects such as the “Great Koala
>  Count” as a “Top Down” project and it fits perfectly
>  with the definition of “citizen science” as used by
>  Earthwatch.  Personally, I prefer the “Bottom Up”
>  approach to “citizen science” where amateurs employ
>  serendipity to record and share data. I call this “adding
>  value to a hobby” and that’s my “working” definition
>  for “citizen science”.
>  Although there is now over 5 billion images on Facebook and
>  Flickr, most natural history images on these sites are
>  useless to science because: (1) They will rarely be
>  identified; (2) They do not provide the minimum Darwin Core
>  dataset of identification/spatial/temporal data; and (3) The
>  data is never on-shared with biodiversity databases (such as
>  ALA in OZ or globally GBIF).
>  However, when similar images are shared on “citizen
>  science” websites dedicated to natural science (Project
>  Noah, iNaturalist, iSpot, BowerBird etc) they impose the
>  Darwin Core standards by insisting a record contains
>  spatial/temporal data per record.  With such data,
>  observations using “macrophotography of "bugs": bigger,
>  smaller, red, blue or yellow" are indeed good “citizen
>  science” and do add value to biodiversity.
>  For me, the essence of science is making observations and
>  asking questions. In my previous Taxacom post, I gave
>  examples of serendipity leading to biosecurity action
>  (Carder bee) and the finding of a presumed extinct insect
>  (ladybeetle). In both these examples, the photographers
>  noticed something that looked unusual, took an image, asked
>  a question and shared their images on a “citizen
>  science” website. Both records definitely caught the
>  attention of scientists.  For interest, here is a link
>  to a distribution map on ALA for the exotic South African
>  carder bee (Afranthidium repetitum) showing the “citizen
>  science” records as the mostly northerly and most
>  southerly dots on the map (
> http://bie.ala.org.au/species/Afranthidium+repetitum
>  ).  Isn’t this a contribution to science?
>  But, it did not begin that way when two “natural history
>  amateurs” observed something and asked a question on a
>  social website that engages the public with
>  scientists.  When do ““natural history amateurs”
>  become “citizen science”?
>  Why do scientists have problems accepting the value of this
>  form of data recording?  Why are scientists hesitant to
>  use the most effective marketing tools currently on the
>  planet – social media?  I can tell you that dealing
>  directly with the general public is a lot more “scary”
>  than writing Taxacom posts.
>  To finish, I will relate a colleague’s reluctance to
>  engage with a socially interactive citizen science
>  website.  When I asked him for his assistance to
>  identify animals within his speciality and he works at a
>  publically funded institution, he refused because he said:
>  “I do not want any member of the public challenging my
>  identifications.”  How typical is this of the general
>  scientific community?
>  I hope I have answered your question: “This made no
>  reference to 'citizen science' and I did not see any
>  implication of such.”  Perhaps I live on planet X but
>  I do see a reference or an implication to “citizen
>  science” in Jason’s post.
>  Cheers Ken
>  From: John Grehan [mailto:calabar.john at gmail.com]
>  Sent: Friday, 24 October 2014 12:51 AM
>  To: Walker, Ken
>  Cc: JF Mate; Taxacom
>  Subject: Re: [Taxacom] De-extinction & Rhachistia
>  aldabrae
>  Ken,
>  Admittedly I only read postings in a fragmentary way and I
>  know I sometimes miss items, but I am confused by your
>  reference to Jason Mate saying the the efforts of citizen
>  science can be dismissed as " are taking pictures of "bugs":
>  bigger, smaller, red, blue or yellow." What I read was that
>  he said that "The decline in "natural history" amateurs is
>  global and cannot be compensated by the explosion of
>  macrophotography since they (mostly) are taking pictures of
>  "bugs": bigger, smaller, red, blue or yellow." This made no
>  reference to 'citizen science' and I did not see any
>  implication of such. It was only a criticism of a particular
>  mode of information gathering or sharing. I would be
>  grateful therefore for how you made that link the way you
>  did.
>  John Grehan
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