John Ascher Curator

Assistant Professor at National University of Singapore and Research Associate at Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum and the American Museum of Natural History.

My primary research focus is bees and related wasps. I contribute extensively to biodiversity portals such as Discover Life and Bugguide.

I have enjoyed reengaging with inaturalist and intend to continue identifying bees and wasps to the extent possible. However, I am puzzled by some aspects of the site. For example:

1) Why is no effort made to encourage proper citation of localities in the proper sequence country: state: county: location? [Update: I understand the concept of plotting on Google Maps and am objecting to the results, in particular failure to display the localities in hierarchical sequence of larger-to-smaller areas with correctly capitalized and unabbreviated place names. Full and correct citation of locality names is not redundant!]

2) Why is it acceptable for contributors to submit uncropped images?

3) Why are records not validated by an expert considered Research Grade?

4) Why were taxon pages not available for some of the most obvious, widely-known, and well-accepted monophyletic groups generally recognized by the public such as bees (=clade Anthophila)? [Update: Thank you for adding a bee node!]

5) Why is it acceptable for contributors to submit images with no organism or no detectable organism as an identification request? This practice sure does waste our time. [Update: note that I am objecting to such images being submitted as ID Requests, not their inclusion on the site as a whole]

6) Why must all images be retained even if they add no value to the site as determined by a qualified expert? [Update: Bugguide seems to have solved the problem of who is an expert, so why is this intractable for inaturalist?]

7) Why can't non-experts take the time to identify the most obvious species such as the Western Honey Bee? [Update: I realize that identifications can be difficult, but in this case there is one species in the New World and clear photos of the species in question are being ignored by contributors (e.g., from Texas ad California) who routinely see fit to attempt species identifications of far more difficult taxa such as Xylocopa]

8) Why is it acceptable to cite subgenera with no indication of the genus in question? This unprofessional practice is particularly unfortunate if the goal is reliable communication with non-experts.

9) I understand that not all contributors wish to share their precise location, but can't they at very least note the country in question? If that must be secret why post anything to the internet?

Updated question in response to feedback received: 10) Why must discussion take place through a Google group rather than through the site itself?

If these questions are answered my enthusiasm for the site will increase. Perhaps others have similar concerns?

After receiving some feedback regarding the above questions, I realize that some contributors think that the goal of promoting wide participation by the public is best met by prioritizing convenience and inclusivity rather than data quality. But wouldn't beginners including young ones be best served if localities were cited consistently and clearly, photos were legible and met minimum quality standards, and "Research Grade" observations were more or less reliable as a reference?

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