[Taxacom] while we're on the topic...

John Grehan calabar.john at gmail.com
Fri Mar 27 18:54:42 CDT 2020

I agree with Doug that iNaturalist is a great project and resource. It can
even excel over published records. I had a case for a rather prominent
butterfly in New Zealand where the iNaturalist records considerably
augmented the single published distribution map (40 years old). Where
identification is unambiguous this can be very useful. I had another case
for the ghost moth Leto venus in South Africa where an iNaturalist sighting
reported a finding well outside the range in the literature. For my group
of interest there are quite a number of people who take an taxonomic
interest and one is able to set up a link so that every day or so one
receives an email of new sightings and links should one be interested to
view or assess. Identification is also very transparent, where the original
poster proposes an ID and then others can either agree or make their
alternative suggestions to which the original poster can (and usually does)
change their initial ID. It is through this resource that I have been able
to learn of new species (even genera) although its often much harder to
persuade people to collect a specimen for taxonomic work. In one case
postings on biology of a species led to a paper on those findings.

John Grehan

On Fri, Mar 27, 2020 at 2:02 PM Doug Yanega via Taxacom <
taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> wrote:

> While I suspect at least a few readers rolled their eyes at the
> suggestion offered to John Grehan regarding entering taxonomic data into
> Wikispecies and Wikipedia, I'd like to advocate this as a very
> reasonable suggestion - though while maybe not for John's purpose, then
> for any of us who have taxonomic expertise, access to primary
> literature, and are presently doing much of our work online due to
> various social distancing measures in place. There are a lot more laymen
> and students around the world who are extracting scientific information
> from the internet today, in part because of the recent crisis, so
> helping improve these important resources is a very timely endeavor.
> Both WS and WP are substantial community crowd-sourced resources, and
> it's generally true that typing a taxon name into Google will give one
> or both of these wikis among the top hits, if not THE top hit. This
> means that time and effort spent entering data into these resources is
> not being wasted; it is being viewed by LOTS of people, and used by lots
> of people. The utility of these resources depends upon quality control,
> however, and that depends upon having *lots of taxonomists* who are
> involved in seeing to it that the information is both *up-to-date* and
> *accurate*. At present, it's a fairly small but dedicated core group of
> taxonomists, including myself, who are handling the bulk of this work,
> and it would be spectacular to have some more of you come join us in the
> effort.
> You can start simple; have you published any peer-reviewed papers in the
> last few years describing new taxa or revising an existing group? If so,
> just go into WS and WP and see if the taxa in your work appear, and if
> they follow the accepted classification. If not, then update things
> accordingly, with citations to your work. The process of editing is very
> straightforward and intuitive (most of what you would need to do can be
> accomplished by cutting and pasting with editing of similar content;
> even entire articles can be good templates), and - for the most part -
> there are very few administrative policies you would need to be
> concerned with. The two most significant are the "No Original Research"
> policy, which means that until and unless you can provide a link to a
> peer-reviewed citation that includes the information you wish to add (a
> "Reliable Source"), you should*not*add it (otherwise it might be
> removed), and the policy surrounding "Undue Weighting", which basically
> means that if there are reliable sources that are in conflict*andno
> community consensus* as to which is correct, then all should be cited
> and the conflict discussed directly and impartially, rather than the
> editor arbitrarily or subjectively choosing the one they prefer.
> The existing taxonomic infrastructure in both places is largely complete
> down to the family level, so it is mostly the inclusion of ranks below
> family that would be significant, though there are still some regions of
> conflict in higher ranks in WS, where some recent large-scale changes
> have not yet been fully incorporated (mostly because they are
> labor-intensive changes). Again, so long as you are adhering to the
> policies mentioned above, and not failing at the technical aspects
> (e.g., formatting of citations and such), these resources work in a
> ratchet-like fashion; improvements are retained, but not vandalism. The
> more traffic a page receives, the faster any damage is fixed, so you
> should never worry about whether a contribution you have made will
> persist, or whether someone will come along and screw with it. WS in
> particular sees essentially no vandalism at all.
> I will similarly put in a plug for iNaturalist, another crowd-sourced
> project that could sorely use assistance from actual taxonomists, not
> only to help correct glaring errors in their classification hierarchy,
> but especially to help fix glaring errors in the identifications of
> images that are posted on the site. I know a significant number of
> instructors who - in lieu of being able to take students into the field
> - are presently using (or intending to use) iNaturalist in their
> teaching curriculum, and this means they REALLY need some help from
> experts to prevent students from learning things that are untrue. For at
> least a few of you, the process will work both ways, too - that is, the
> photos on iNaturalist may very well contribute to your own research,
> with new distribution and phenological data, or even the revelation of
> entirely new taxa.
> I do hope that a number of you will step forward and start contributing;
> now more than ever before we need to do what we can to ensure that
> people have easy access to genuine science rather than misinformation.
> Thanks,
> --
> Doug Yanega      Dept. of Entomology       Entomology Research Museum
> Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314     skype: dyanega
> phone: (951) 827-4315 (disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
>               https://faculty.ucr.edu/~heraty/yanega.html
>    "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
>          is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82
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