Project 950: M. A. O'Leary, K. Alphonse, M. Arce Hernandez, D. Cavaliere, A. Cirranello, T. Dietterich, M. Julius, S. Kaufman, E. Law, M. Passarotti, A. Reft, J. Robalino, N. B. Simmons, S. Smith, D. Stevenson, E. Theriot, P. M. Velazco, R. Walls, M. Yu, M. Daly. 2018. Crowds replicate performance of scientific experts scoring phylogenetic matrices of phenotypes. Systematic Biology. 67 (1):49-60. (In Press)
Specimen: Cnidaria (unvouchered)

Abstract

Scientists building the Tree of Life face an overwhelming challenge to categorize phenotypes (e.g., anatomy, physiology) from millions of living and fossil species. This biodiversity challenge far outstrips the capacities of trained scientific experts. Here we explore whether crowdsourcing can be used to collect matrix data on a large scale with the participation of the non-expert students, or “citizen scientists.” Crowdsourcing, or data collection by non-experts, frequently via the internet, has enabled scientists to tackle some large-scale data collection challenges too massive for individuals or scientific teams alone. The quality of work by non-expert crowds is, however, often questioned and little data has been collected on how such crowds perform on complex tasks such as phylogenetic character coding. We studied a crowd of over 600 non-experts, and found that they could use images to identify anatomical similarity (hypotheses of homology) with an average accuracy of 82% compared to scores provided by experts in the field. This performance pattern held across the Tree of Life, from protists to vertebrates. We introduce a procedure that predicts the difficulty of each character and that can be used to assign harder characters to experts and easier characters to a non-expert crowd for scoring. We test this procedure in a controlled experiment comparing crowd scores to those of experts and show that crowds can produce matrices with over 90% of cells scored correctly while reducing the number of cells to be scored by experts by 50%. Preparation time, including image collection and processing, for a crowdsourcing experiment is significant, and does not currently save time of scientific experts overall. However, if innovations in automation or robotics can reduce such effort, then large-scale implementation of our method could greatly increase the collective scientific knowledge of species phenotypes for phylogenetic tree building. For the field of crowdsourcing, we provide a rare study with ground truth, or an experimental control that many studies lack, and contribute new methods on how to coordinate the work of experts and non-experts. We show that there are important instances in which crowd consensus is not a good proxy for correctness.


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Article DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/sysbio/syx052

Project DOI: 10.7934/P950, http://dx.doi.org/10.7934/P950
This project containsMatrices
  • 327 Media
  • 1 Matrix
  • 1 Document
  • 29 Taxa
  • 31 Specimens
  • 9 Characters
Total size of project's media files: 264.41M

Download Project SDD File
Total scored cells: 108
Total media associated with cells: 120
Total labels associated with cell media: 16
Characters
Total characters: 9
Total characters with associated media: 9
Total characters with media with labels: 0
Total character states: 19
Total character states with associated media: 19
Total character states with media with labels:1
Total unordered/ordered characters:9/0
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MorphoBank Project 950

    This research
    supported by

    Authors' Institutions

    • Ohio State University

    • Oregon State University

    • University of Arizona

    • University of Michigan

    • University of Texas at Austin

    • University of Waterloo

    • American Museum of Natural History

    • Drexel University

    • Kenx Technology Inc

    • New York Botanical Garden

    • St. Cloud State University

    • Stony Brook University

    • Whirl-i-gig

    • College of William and Mary

    • Howard Hughes Medical Institute



    Members

    member name taxa specimens media chars character
    media
    labels
    cell scorings
    (scored, NPA, "-")
    cell
    medialabels
    rules
    Marymegan Daly
    Project Administrator
    1191366231108
    (102, 4, 2)
    109152
    Jed Irvine
    Full membership
    0000000
    (0, 0, 0)
    010
    Michael Lam
    Full membership
    0000000
    (0, 0, 0)
    000
    Maureen O'Leary
    Full membership
    13223000
    (0, 0, 0)
    000
    Abigail Reft
    Full membership
    5201890700
    (0, 0, 0)
    1100


    Taxonomic Overview for Matrix 'M2125' (12 Taxa)

    taxon unscored
    cells
    scored
    cells
    no cell
    support
    NPA
    cells
    "-" cellscell images labels on
    cell images
    member
    access
    [1] Asterias asteriformis
    Last Modified in 07/11/14
    090001115
    [2] Anemonia sulcata acanthoneme
    Last Modified in 06/13/14
    08010815
    [3] Aiptasia sp.
    Last Modified in 07/10/14
    090001425
    [4] Cereus pedunculatus
    Last Modified in 07/11/14
    090001115
    [5] Diadumene leucolena
    Last Modified in 07/11/14
    090001025
    [6] Haliplanella lineata pb2d
    Last Modified in 06/11/14
    080101115
    [7] Urticina felina
    Last Modified in 07/11/14
    090001135
    [8] Metridium senile pb1
    Last Modified in 06/13/14
    08010815
    [9] Palythoa sp
    Last Modified in 07/10/14
    07011815
    [10] Rhodactis sp.
    Last Modified in 07/11/14
    080011015
    [11] Stomphia sp.
    Last Modified in 07/10/14
    09000915
    [12] Actinostola sp.
    Last Modified in 07/11/14
    09000915


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    Matrix views1059Matrix landing page (907 views); Nematocyst matrix (152 views);
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    Project downloads

    type number of downloads Individual items downloaded (where applicable)
    Total downloads from project203
    Project downloads185
    Matrix downloads15Nematocyst matrix (15 downloads);
    Document downloads1Supplementary Material (1 download);
    Media downloads2M286379 (1 download); M287172 (1 download);