Are locked taxa still a thing?

Did iNat remove locked taxa? Prior to me noticing this, certain branches of life, primarily vertebraes, could only have its taxonomic status curated by “taxon curators”. And I’m sure that’s something we’re all familiar with.

Well today, I noticed that a hybrid taxon was created for a duck hybrid by someone who is not the bird curator. I couldn’t find an explanation, the user is not listed under the framework details, yet was able to make this hybrid.

After I exhausted my searches, I decided to do the last thing I expected to be doing today; I went into the flags and found the first one requesting a hybrid taxon. And I created the taxon without being told only a taxon curator can do that. Note, the hybrid taxon I made is a well-documented combo of a vagrant bird that paired with a local (see second link).

https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/1364421-Buteogallus-anthracinus---Buteo-lineatus
https://bioone.org/journals/journal-of-raptor-research/volume-54/issue-1/0892-1016-54.1.74/Intergeneric-Hybridization-of-a-Vagrant-Common-Black-Hawk-and-a/10.3356/0892-1016-54.1.74.full

Anyway, what’s going on here? Are we now allowed to curate anything? I cannot find any news regarding this change, assuming it’s intentional, unless it was eliminated when we introduced Taxon History last month.

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Just adding, I’d prefer taxa weren’t locked. Locking taxa would have made the most sense in the past when there were less total curators. Now since the curator number has grown and more people with experience or expertise have joined iNat in general, it would be ideal not to lock taxa. Making taxon changes is only done by curators who already know curation guidelines. Taxon pages also now record history and there are taxon change notifications. In the event someone were to accidentally make a taxon change that others debated or thought was incorrect, that would be true and occur whether the taxon was locked or not if they had access to it. Since curators are supposed to follow curation standards (which do say not to make controversial changes on your own), there’s no need to block some from making changes out of concern they might make mistakes. Those people should simply discuss those changes before making them and only make them if they’re sure of them. Also, some locked taxonomic groups have many unprocessed curation requests, and being locked blocks curators outside the locked group from processing those requests. Overall, there would be many benefits of not locking taxa.

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It’s still a thing in some taxa. But in general, many common taxa are not locked anymore.
Anyway, i agree with @brian_d. Locked taxa are making curators less flexible when curating taxa. I know that letting other curators could really mess the taxa if the curators don’t know much about the taxa (i was one of them, sorry). But every now and then, the Taxon Curators could get really busy with their RL and can’t curate those taxa. That can result the taxa being left behind on many new changes (ex. Spider). By letting other curators do the job could solve those problems.

I usually avoided curating vertebrate taxa, and prefer to curate Odonata.
Infact in these past months, i’m the one that actively update the taxa so it’s not left behind, despite not being the Taxon Curators. It was locked, but for some reason it was unlocked on one point.

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That is actually my major concern. As I presented here, the bird curator tried to find a way for the everyday curator to aid in the 2021 taxonomy updates, all we had to do was do the grunt work and once done, he’d start committing the changes. We finished about two months ago, but I haven’t heard word yet that these changes are actually being committed. I know he has a lot to curate but with birds no longer being locked and if others get word of it, I see downhill chaos happening really quickly as we start committing things all willy nilly.

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Locking taxa just does not make sense now, like it did before.

I currently disagree, although I’m sure I could change my mind at some point. Out of date-taxonomy, duplicate taxa, unwarranted taxon swaps, etc. happen all the time in the small group that I curate by curators unfamiliar with the standards we use for the group—having changes like that happening in bigger more common groups seems like it could be a major problem.

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Yes, that was from my earlier days becoming a curator. Maybe instead of locking taxa, maybe we could restrict what curators can do based on how long have they been a curator or are they experts or not. Senior curators and/or experts can do much anything, but junior curators need some training or guide first.
Great idea?

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I was thinking among the lines of eliminating or limiting the ability to commit your own taxon changes. If we’re not having locked taxa now, no one person is responsible for curating the entire family. So we encourage curators to check out the taxon changes and review the propose changes.

Any true mistakes ideally shouldn’t actually be happening in such numbers though, and now all changes are being tracked in taxon history. So if someone made many mistakes, I’d think it would eventually prompt some review/discussion of at least how to prevent it. Still, some mistakes must do slip by, especially when no one notices anything is incorrect. In general, taxon history should help a lot with these concerns, although some may remain. There are still more steps that could be taken to increase verification/review of taxon changes which could help. For example some suggested making citing sources mandatory, although many already do. For difficult or debated taxon change questions, it can also help to discuss on iNat or to email external experts, especially for any wildlife groups which have few experts on iNat. Current forum guidance for many specific taxon change questions has been to discuss them in taxon page curation request flags. But those flags seem somewhat hidden from many people noticing them, and few people responded to ones I’ve seen. I’d prefer if those discussions could be allowed in the forum, in this category or wherever would be best.

Agree, or the taxon change should have “agree” button and two or three person have to agree to commit.

Just to check, am I right to think you are suggesting this only for certain taxa (i.e. the ‘locked’ ones). I think implementing this more generally would certainly just result in taxonomic gridlock.

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Yes only for originally locked, aka vertebrae, taxa. I think an agreement system before commitment can help safeguard against erroneous taxon changes. Obviously this wouldn’t work in frameworks over insects because those taxon changes could sit for years before being committed. But maybe it’s a mute point since taxon history is now a thing. It also seems like with our new found abilities, there’s still a limit. It appears that any taxon change that has or will have over 200,000 observations can only be made or committed by the taxon curator. That might be our “safeguard”.

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One clarification I’d add to my suggestion to unlock all taxa is, I don’t mind if very large taxonomic groups like Mammalia, Plantae, etc. remain locked out of caution. I just meant I’d recommend unlocking all specific groups around the rank of Order or finer, e.g. lizards, bees, bats, birds, flowering plants, etc.

Existing Taxon Curators were removed by accident. But we thought we’d wait and see how they went since taxon curators have exposed both benefits (less changes to branches that have to be reverted and more stability) but also cons (large backlog of changes that don’t get made because too few taxon curators).

Watching how things are going, I do think we need to add them back for some clades like amphibians and reptiles (I’ve re-added myself as the taxon curator for these branches for now) where there’s been persistent problems with curators deviating from the references by adding taxa that should be split or internodes such as subgenera without first discussing these changes, without documenting these as deviations, and without doing all the steps needed to keep the tree well maintained (e.g. adding a taxon but not splitting its sibling).

Maybe taxon curators are just a band-aid while we sort out the deeper problem of better policies/resources/training/tools for all curators to do their work. Or maybe taxon curators have a long term place as teams of several curators (e.g. 10 or more) per framework.

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Could the recently implemented taxon history feature help keep track of these changes? Even if some curators made mistakes or changes without discussing for example, there would now be a much clearer record that that happened for curators and staff to see/be aware of. I’d think that that being the case, such curators would learn from the experience and be more careful on the one hand, or if they continued doing that that staff might discuss with them/evaluate what to do. In other words, taxon history seems to help it not be a free for all where taxa need to be guarded from deviant changes. That said, I have no reservations about much coarser groups like Animalia or Plantae being locked for caution.