In a couple of recent discussions we have had with regards to the Beatty Collection, we have debated as to how we can get more people actively participating in transcribing, or typing out, collecting events into an online database.
What is the collecting event you ask? It contains the details of the circumstances in which a specimen was collected, particularly who collected it and where as well as other important/interesting details about the specimen. We have shared a few of the more memorable collecting events on our Instagram as well as here on the blog. However, in order to fully access these details about collecting, we have to turn the captured data into something usable for further research. In short, having the collecting event on the triangle or label associated the specimen does not really share it to the world.
In planning projects, I have recently begun thinking about how to incentivize the act of transcribing a label. Many projects have crowdsourced this process, such as the Smithsonian Transcription Center, making it possible for anyone to work on typing out the data present on a variety of digitized materials anywhere.
As we have over 26,000 images of odonates that have collecting event data to be transcribed, and we have scans of all of the Beatty’s field notes that reconcile ambiguity in the events (I’m looking at you, collecting event numbers). While those of us in the lab have been working on transcribing for the past few months, we are still looking for ways to ramp up the process and crank out more transcriptions.
The difficulty is finding the balance between productivity/accuracy/engagement. As I try to brainstorm ways to incentivize the process of transcription, I am struck with many questions about how to go about finding an appropriate audience for this project beyond the walls of this lab. Should we try talking to local schools who have typing classes to see if this would be good practice for their students? Do junior high schools even have typing classes? How could the data be verified in a timely manner before researchers need to download it for projects? Is there a way to turn it into a game? Am I the only one eating ice cream and trying to transcribe a few collecting events while watching Frontline?
I would love to hear any and all ideas about how to go about incentivizing transcription of field notes and collecting events. If you would like to check out Penn State’s Special Collections Library’s scans of the Beatty field notes, they can be found here.