Age Restriction for Curators?

Hey curators,

Every so often a user under the age of 18 asks to become a curator, and they’ve shown good behavior and decision-making on iNaturalist. But, I’ve decided to not let anyone under 18 become a curator on iNat, just because of the amount of responsibility involved.

However, I’m wondering that’s a good limit? Adults can definitely make mistakes and be irresponsible as well. What are your thoughts on younger users being granted curator status? What traits would make for a good curator?


If they have a high degree of demonstrated knowledge and interest, I would not have a problem with someone under the age of 18 being a curator. Some of my academic mentors were insect savants well before that age - it’s an arbitrary number after all. However, that’s not to say we should let toddlers be curators either.

IMHO, curators should be thorough, cautious when necessary, familiar with taxonomy and nomenclature, and ideally have a deep knowledge of a taxon and a passion for curating it on iNat.


I would definitely agree with some of your points. I would think that a curator could be under the age of 18, as someone could easily show responsibility and knowledge to handle that rank. There are a select few people under the age of 18 that are very knowledgeable on certain topics, and if they asked I think it would be okay to make them a curator, or a new rank for kids and teenagers. I think a good curator should have the qualities of respectfulness(no cursing, disrespectful talk, complimenting others, etc), responsibility(able to show consistent log behavior on Inaturalist[at least 4 times a week], be within to an extent accurate[no putting some crazy taxon such as a groundhog for a dog, or a swan for a robin.]). Finally, I think that the age of 18 in other countries is considered an adult already(many European countries consider 16 to be the age of maturity), and the minor should have a passion in Inaturalist and be understanding and kind to people, and finally have some special interest in one taxon(mine is Saxifragales), and have an accuracy rate of 92% for identifications.


@Myelaphus I agree we should not let toddlers be curators, but if a 13-17 year old shows a deep passion for one taxa, I think we could give them curation status if they follow the guidelines, and are to the extent accurate with identifications. But still, people make mistakes, whether they be a beginner, an expert, or the most well known scientist in ornithology.


@tiwane Also, can someone be stripped of their curator status if they display reckless or inappropriate behavior on Inaturalist.


I believe there should be a restriction, probably not 18 though, but not only because responsibility itself, but because psychological aspects of such work, dealing with theoretical angry users or other problems can be hard and lead to problems in a young human. Plus yes, probably the person needs more time and teens have a lot of pressure at their studies.


Yes, the main problem is dealing with problematic users especially when they know that the curator is a minor. I have already had to deal with this type of people and it is quite difficult, so I think that a curator should be at least 16 years old. Regarding the fact that adolescents have less time due to studies, it is not always true, for example I have always had time to review INaturalist at least once a day, it is just a matter of organizing time.


I am generally against having someone in that age range have the curator position. In the group I specialize in (ants) there are a couple of younger folks that although knowledgeable also tend to be very reckless with Ids and such. although in general they have taken my polite corrections well on occasion it has not gone as well I feel that kids of that age group need a little more life experience under their belts.


I think someone under 18 could be a curator, but I would definitely want to consider carefully before doing so. As some others have noted, dealing with problematic users/people with strongly-held opinions is probably the most difficult part of being a curator, and this is definitely a skill gained with experience.
One thought is the young curator could be given/introduced to a curator mentor: an older, experienced curator who they could message if difficult situations arise and they’d like/need advice.


I wonder if it makes sense to have a ‘junior curator’ rank, so people can weight their responses accordingly. (@cthawley’s suggestion could be even better: rather than flag curators as youngsters, simply have them be mentored, with the mentor’s name listed alongside theirs and the mentor cc:ed on official correspondence?)


I’m probably one of the younger curators on here (19) and I agree with others here who say they don’t believe age itself should be a factor. I think it’s mostly up to what the person can do for the site and what space they can fill/how they can contribute to improving the site. E.g. it’s not necessary to have a younger curator who specialises in a specific area if there are plenty of professional experts curating in that section of the site). I think there are plenty of very knowledgeable people in the range of 16 years old (and maybe younger), but really I think it should be based on what they’ve contributed before their request and how being granted curator status can help them further accomplish things that help iNat. In other words, I think it would make most sense for all curator proposals to be treated with the same scrutiny across the board.

However, it may be worth noting that I’ve had some particular trouble with younger users who can be quite confidently incorrect regarding fields in which they have no interest. This isn’t at all confined to younger people—there are a lot of older users (including curators with quite the credentials) that are confidently incorrect and take days of careful correspondence with for them to come around. However, I’ve seen credentials often go to people’s heads, so I think that it’s important that prior conduct by the user be assessed (which I assume is already done anyway).

It’s tricky—I believe it’s practical to have an age limit, but I also do not believe it is necessary. Maybe make room for exceptions, but keep a general standard to go by so that clear rules are in place (which could cause less confusion). My two cents.


I guess the question I would have is what does a user that age who asks to be a curator think the role is and what do they want to be able to do that cant already either be done by all users or by flags.

Are they really interested in resolving arguments, reviewing copyrights etc, or are they really asking for taxonomic editing rights? That can be an issue, and not just for folks in this age range, but anyone whose goal is to ‘correct’ the taxonomy on the site.

And do they understand they are not going to be made a taxa curator, that role is restricted to folks with extensive curating experience, so no birds, mammals, reptiles etc.

If someone wants to resolve all the missing ants or beetles or orchids on the site, they can do that just as quickly via the import tools available to all users, frankly likely even faster than via the manual tools curators have.


Do you know a way to show your overall Id accuracy?


Ok, so this is the opinion of the minor. I’m 14, and have thought about asking to be a curator several times. I always did think there was an age limit.

I totally agree with this. The minor should be responsible and reasonably predictable.

I love this! It would help a lot.
As for the angry users, yes, I understand that can be tough to deal with. I do think the mentor idea would help a lot with this.
And for the point of too much focus on studies, well, that is not exactly true for me. I do have quite a bit of free time, and will show up every day here for at least a couple hours. I know other youth who also are fairly consistent here.
Also agreeing with what @cmcheatle said, it should not be just for the title. They should know what they are getting into.
I do believe that the youth should be given a chance. After all, we can take away the curator status, if needed.


Nothing against teenagers, some of whom may be highly qualified to curate certain taxa, but if you’re not old enough to drink (at least in the U.S.) maybe you’re too young to be curating. Not that drinking and curating go hand in hand. Or do they?

Seriously, it would have to be person specific. I wasn’t mature enough to be doing this when I was in my teens but others may be. Maybe an apprentice curator position?


I agree with a lot of what @nomolosx said; I was made a curator a few months ago at 19. Like curators in general, everything is a case by case basis. I do not frequently run into conflict with other users, but merges and splits prompted the few outbursts I’ve encountered, so if there’s talk of creating a “junior curator” perhaps those powers should be excluded. It really depends on exactly what area people are interested in.

It may also be relevant that I did not initially seek out becoming a curator. I accepted an invitation (probably given because I kept flagging taxa) and I’ve enjoyed doing it, but maybe under-aged curators could be allowed by an invitation only basis.

I’ll also echo the statement that curators should have some prior experience. I’ve been working with museum collections since I was 13 so that was some helpful preparation before I found iNat. I definitely don’t think everyone needs that, but there may be some rather young users who have more experience (and maturity) than the “adults”.


Maybe if the role was split, as discussed in the past. I can potentially see an energetic, focused teenager being a good curator for some part of the taxonomic tree that they’re really passionate about. OTOH, I really wouldn’t want them in the moderation role, mostly for their own protection. We seem to be doing better than most social media in maintaining a high level of productivity relative to angry Internet beefing, but asking minors to moderate online interpersonal conflicts and deal with the blowback from unhappy parties is asking more of them than I’d like to ask.


that would be a pretty cool feature


You should make it so that no curators exist and everybody is treated equal. Equality for everybody.

well that’s a hot take