[Taxacom] De-extinction & Rhachistia aldabrae
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
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.
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
> identifications challenged by amateurs.
> 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
> 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
> 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 (
> ). 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
> 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
> John Grehan
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