Paul Ostler — April 23, 01:55PM
A checkbox on the maps to include unconfirmed sightings?
Since reviewers are swamped and reviews take time, would it be possible to provide a checkbox on the maps to include unconfirmed sightings that are still in the review queue? We hear many complaints that rare bird sightings don't show up in eBird. I understand you can sign up for alerts, but alerts disappear after a week, and are only for birds you haven't seen. It would be very convenient to be able to type in a rare bird in the maps and see all sightings, including those still under review (when the checkbox is checked). It wouldn't need to show invalidated sightings.
Mark — April 24, 08:53PM
One type of alerts is for birds you haven't seen within a given area.
The other type of Alert is for rare species, that is, those that need to be reviewed, whether you've seen and eBirded them in the given area or not.
You can sign up for those "rare" alerts and save them (and the checklist links with them) for future reference.
EM Ganin — April 25, 06:24AM
I like Paul's suggestion. The rare bird alerts only go back 7 days. In certain areas, the unconfirmed reports go back more than 2 years. It is not practical to ask users to download and save the rare bird alerts for every region of interest for multiple years.
John — April 26, 01:26PM
The Range and Point Maps under "Explore Data" lets you type in any bird species and see where it has been seen.
Paul Ostler — April 26, 03:43PM
Thanks for the replies so far. The feature being requested is for eBird developers to add a new checkbox on the Range and Point Maps under "Explore Data" to allow for unconfirmed sightings to show up . Currently, only confirmed sightings show up, but there should be a way to query for unconfirmed sightings that are still in the review queue of an eBird reviewer.
Here in Idaho there has been much discussion on this topic, because rare bird reports do not show up on the eBird maps until confirmed, and this sometimes takes over a year. We understand that eBird offers rare bird alerts but they can only be queried for up to a week and then are not queryable. As mentioned by EM Ganin, its not practical to have to save all rare bird reports, queried regularly and saved for a couple of years.
Team eBird encourages reviewers to defer to state record committees, and this can be a lengthy process. This also puts undue pressure on the record committees because most birders would like to be able query for these sightings on the eBird maps.
Given that Team eBird leverages the efforts of the state record committees, then perhaps Team eBird could be persuaded that there is some scientific value even in unconfirmed records, and that they could fill a collective need for us here in Idaho by providing a checkbox on their maps to include unconfirmed sightings. This could help take the pressure off our records committee for speedy reviews, and given the volume of information in the eBird database there could be scientific value even in unconfirmed records.
Zachary DeBruine — April 27, 05:21PM
Although unconfirmed sightings do not appear on the maps, they can be downloaded as a .csv file (as Paul and many others are likely aware). When downloading, just check "include unvetted data". In the Excel file there is a column for review and approval status. I think Paul's suggestion for making unconfirmed sightings optionally appear on range maps is a great one, since downloading data is certainly not as convenient.
Marshall Iliff — May 08, 06:44PM eBird Staff
The development proposed by Paul is a complex one that would require a lot of eBird resources. Prior to embarking on a such a large development we would need to better understand the real reasons it is needed. Is it because reviews months behind in certain regions? If so, this is perhaps better addressed by expanding the review team. Is it because Alerts need to look back longer than 14 days? If so, that is a different and easier technical change (but note that large states, like California, currently get far more records than can easily be viewed in one Alert). I don’t think it is because eBird range maps are misrepresenting bird occurrence at a broad scale, but if so, I’d need to understand how. If so, this may be an issue with the data quality filters more than anything.
There are two types of “unconfirmed” sightings: ones that the reviewer has marked to not be shown publicly, and those that are simply awaiting action. I assume this thread applies to the latter, not the former. I would strongly discourage showing records that reviewers have marked as “non public”, since these include some very bad misplotted records, falsified lists (i.e., list building exercises), and countless misidentifications. Even with toggles on and off (which are difficult to build), exposing these errors would serve very few benefits.
The eBird data quality process is essential to eBird’s success ad to maintaining a reputation for high data quality standards. Over the years, errors on eBird output have gotten to be fewer and fewer thanks to the dedicated corps of eBird reviewers. While I understand the urge for more speed in reviewing, in some cases, this would hurt the quality of the reviews.
I do believe that a system of “appeal” is probably needed, and how to build this is will be a topic of future discussions. We do not want errors in eBird—be they obvious errors that are shown or well-documented records that are not shown. But we also need eBird users to not lose sleep over individual records, since each person’s contribution to the big picture of bird distribution far outweighs any negative feelings over a particular record that may have been marked “not public” or is awaiting review.
In my view, the Alerts serve the need for records of rarities to reach the eBird community regardless of their review status. They are clearly marked to indicate their validity. But before eBird puts planned developments on hold to show unvetted records, can anyone clarify the fundamental problem? I expect that the core issue varies from state to state.
As a point of clarification, eBird does encourage reviewers to align their decisions with state records committees, but also encourages preliminary timely review. This is clearly spelled out in our reviewer guidelines, so well-photographed and uncontroversial rarities should be marked valid and need not await Records Committee approval.
Paul Ostler — May 16, 12:59PM
Marshall, Thanks for your reply. All of your points make great sense. Regarding clarification of the fundamental problem, I think it is three-fold:
1. As you've pointed out, unvetted records should not be invalidated (ie. marked non-public) while awaiting a BRC decision. Since non-public (invalidated) data cannot be downloaded from Avian Knowledge Network, and would not even show up in the rare bird alerts.
2. It would be convenient to be able to query for unvetted records on a map, without having to download the raw data from Avian Knowledge Network.
3. Rare bird alerts disappear after a week.
Thanks again for your consideration.
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