Volunteer Data Reviewers Make eButterfly Shine

Clouded SulphurAnyone who regularly submits to eButtery has come to understand our data quality process. It is of paramount importance at eButterfly. Typos happen, misidentifications happen, and well-intentioned eButterfly observers sometimes just make mistakes. All of us at Team eButterfly have done it, and we’ll do it again. Mistakes are part of surveying butterflies. Our team of volunteer reviewers works tirelessly to make eButterfy data as accurate and authoritative as possible.

We now have over 45 butterfly experts around North America who help review records in their region of expertise. Some of these people work within single state or province, while others help tackle whole regions. Every one of them is a part of the team because of their demonstrated expertise with butterfly identification, their deep knowledge of butterfly occurrence, and their ability to communicate with all of us. Many of them devote lots of extra time to help educate people about butterflies, either through their role in eButterfly or through other roles in the community. Every one of them is a critical piece of the eButterfly project and we are enormously thankful to each one of them. Please join us in thanking them, drop them a note of thanks if you know them personally, and continue to do your best to help them with their job.

Their job is a difficult one. Almost always these editors are reviewing records from friends, colleagues, and contacts in the butterfly community. They try to base their decisions on objective views of the evidence whenever possible. But when difficult photographs are provided, then judgment calls need to be made. The best thing you can do as an eButterfly user to help them is to consistently provide photos and notes for your observations.

When you receive an email or other message from these editors, often they have some wisdom to impart on your record or your observation, and they will surely help you with any ID you are unsure of. The reviewer may be following up with dozens of other people at the same time, so please be patient and please know that your responses are always appreciated, even if only to say that you did not realize it was unusual and you did not get photos or take additional notes at the time. Please be aware also that these people are volunteers, enjoy butterflies as much as you do, and that delays of days to even weeks or more are to be expected at times.

It is also true that our reviewers make mistakes. Just as data entry typos are possible, data vetting typos are possible too. Although far less than 0.01% of cases, it is possible to select “invalid” for a record that the reviewer intended to mark “valid” (or vice versa). These mistakes happen and whenever we find them we make sure it is corrected. We do hope to improve the system in the future to make these easier to find and correct and to make sure that people can get a second opinion when warranted. Maintaining a good system of review and a good experience for eButterfly users is of paramount importance to us. No review is ever final, and all records can be reassessed at any time, that’s the beauty of our philosophy of an open access to all the data in the eButterfly database.

Thank you to all of our dedicated reviewers for your hard work. We still have many areas of North America without expert reviewers. If you, or someone you know, might be interested in joining the eButterfly team vetting data, please contact us!


Team eButterfly