Voucher specimens are essential to making science repeatable and verifiable. The importance of vouchers has been discussed repeatedly and recently—Yoshimoto (1978), Turney et al. (2015), Funk et al. (2018), and many, many others—but I can’t say that I’ve seen any changes in practice in my 12+ years as a professor. Maybe 20% of graduating students stop by the Frost with vouchers that represent their research? 🙁
Part of the problem is that research design is so heterogeneous it can difficult to know what a reasonable vouchering strategy would look like. If someone is doing broad sampling of multiple agroecosystems should every . single . specimen (which could be >>10,000 insects) be mounted, labeled, identified, and deposited? That seems like an unreasonable amount of time and resources (pins, paper, vials, collection space). What if your research is done using thousands of specimens of Anopheles that have been in culture for hundreds of generations? Do you need any vouchers at all? (I’d argue yes!)
With that in mind, I approached the Entomological Collections Network last February with a request to see what others propose as “best practices”. As always, my fellow ECNers were a wealth of information and opinions. Based on this dialog, we took a stab at writing our own vouchering SOP, and today we published the first draft. Check it out: https://doi.org/10.26207/mcnq-qr77 (or try the direct link to PDF)
It’s only two pages and includes a lot of “contact us for further discussion” statements, but at least it’s a start! What do you think? What would you change?