It's a game, and it is not a game...
The digitization of the Paris herbarium produced about 6 million images. This virtualisation left out databasing specimens that could have taken up to 500 years to achieve if it had to be done by our staff. Instead, to meet the challenge we developed a citizen science site, "LesHerbonautes". Each volunteer (herbonaute) contributes according his interests such as geography, history and natural botany. Key aspects of « LesHerbonautes » are:
1 / Maintain motivation around a scientific question We organize "missions" using 500 to 8,000 images selected for a specific scientific question.
2 / Train volunteers Each participant must be briefly trained in the principles of herbarium data. As in a videogame, a volunteer pass levels that are an opportunity to learn a few rules attach step.
3 / Data validation Each herbarium image is documented blindly by several herbonautes and fields are validated when a fixed numbers of contributors gives the same information. Once validated, the image is no longer offered other volunteers.
4 / Rewarding volunteer effort and create a community The key to success also depends on dialogue between participants who willingly exchange humorous touches, but also tricks or additional elements. These exchanges help to maintain the living community and even improve data quality. Spontaneously, the herbonautes practice searching the internet to solve the problems of geography or botany history (identify a collector, or even writing). After two years of existence, tens of thousands of herbarium sheets were completed totaling one million contributions.
The project will soon be extended all French herbaria. Our system and code are also available via the GBIF-France. We want to encourage cross missions associating images of several institutions.