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Re: [beemonitoring] bar or scan-code systems to aid insect curation

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  • Doug Yanega
    ... Hmm. There are two things that your comments raise in my mind: (A) we also use Bartender, but someone, somewhere, told us originally (I was not directly
    Message 1 of 9 , Aug 5 4:49 PM
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      Elizabeth Elle wrote:

      >I agree that #1 is a good criterion, but disagree a bit about #2 and
      >3. I print labels from Bartender (linked to our database in Access)
      >directly onto archival paper, and these labels are basically the
      >same size as 'normal' labels; they have all the location and
      >collection information plus a small (5mm x 5mm) barcode.

      Hmm. There are two things that your comments raise in my mind: (A) we
      also use Bartender, but someone, somewhere, told us originally (I was
      not directly involved at the time) that if we wanted to print out
      matrix barcode labels, it had to be on a $5K thermal printer, rather
      than on regular paper and a regular printer. I think maybe we were
      scammed, and are now stuck with a $5K white elephant. It prints 7
      labels a minute, and we've been told it's performing according to
      specs. Two faculty members use this system, but the Museum does not.
      (B) adding a 5 x 5 mm barcode to a label that is already 15 mm long
      does indeed lead to a 22-mm-long label. A few other folks have
      suggested shortening the labels by using tinier text, but then it
      becomes very very hard to read, and that's not user-friendly, since
      humans DO use those labels, especially humans borrowing those
      specimens who do not happen to have barcode scanners.

      >We mostly use the barcode and our handheld scanner to enter specimen
      >identifications into our database, linking the species name to the
      >unique numerical identifier on each label. Our system is heavily
      >derivative of the BBSL system, and for the work we do--mostly
      >ecological/fragmentation studies where we collect many thousands of
      >specimens in a given year--I find this reduces entry errors greatly.
      >I imagine that whether starting with a system like this makes sense
      >will depend greatly on how people collect things and how they want
      >to archive them.

      The list of complicating factors is pretty extensive, and even this
      brief description of your system points out two such factors: the
      first is that when one has specimens from thousands of different
      localities, the odds that a person mistyping a specimen number will
      turn up a record that happens to be from the same date and locality
      is very small, so they can easily catch their own error - but in your
      case, it sounds like you might have thousands of specimens with
      identical date/locality data, reducing the odds that pulling up the
      wrong record would make it obvious that it *was* the wrong record.
      That increases the utility of the barcodes in your context.

      What the second factor relates to is that you don't say whether you
      are labelling your specimens before or after some sort of rough
      morphospecies sorting; if they are largely sorted before labeling
      (this is something I do here), then the odds are greatly increased
      that any set of specimens belonging to the same taxon will have
      numbers in sequence, and this is one area where a human being who is
      handed a bunch of labels and asked to type in (or write down) the
      specimen numbers can actually go much faster than a person who is
      simply scanning one specimen after another rather than reading the
      labels themselves.

      Consider this experiment: I assign a student to scan a set of 50
      specimens that all belong to one species; they dutifully scan them,
      creating 50 find commands executed as part of one search, and it
      takes them about 5 minutes, depending in part on how nicely
      positioned the labels are in the unit tray (scan one, wait a second
      for the beep, perform a few keystrokes, scan the next, beep, a few
      more keystrokes, and so on). I hand the same unit to another student
      and then ask them to read the labels themselves and type them in, and
      they notice within a matter of seconds that the labels - while
      scrambled slightly as part of the experiment - form a sequence
      starting with 177521 and ending with 177570. They sit down, enter ONE
      find command (177521-177570), summon up all 50 records
      simultaneously, and they're finished in roughly one minute (most of
      that time being spent mentally going over the numbers, and only a few
      seconds actually typing). Which system is more effiicient? Even if
      the student with the scanner had noticed the sequentiality, they
      still would have had to spend the same amount of time mentally going
      over the numbers to be sure they were all there, and the time
      difference between scanning in two 6-digit numbers and *typing* in
      two 6-digit numbers is negligible. There is no way that the person
      with the scanner, *in this experiment*, could get the task done
      significantly faster than the person typing. The maximum time
      advantage is when all 50 numbers are completely randomized, and even
      then, a student who can read and type 6-digit numbers can work almost
      as fast as one using a scanner (unless the *only* task is the entry
      of numbers, and few or no other keystrokes are performed) - which is
      why I maintain that, in practice, the only functional difference is
      the error rate.

      Peace,
      --

      Doug Yanega Dept. of Entomology Entomology Research Museum
      Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314 skype: dyanega
      phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
      http://cache.ucr.edu/~heraty/yanega.html
      "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
      is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82
    • Derek Sikes
      A few comments from our system in the University of Alaska Museum Insect Collection: 1. space: we use California Academy unit trays and in a square tray can
      Message 2 of 9 , Aug 12 4:18 AM
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        A few comments from our system in the University of Alaska Museum
        Insect Collection:

        1. space: we use California Academy unit trays and in a square tray
        can fit a maximum of 3 rows of specimens in a tray (this is about 30
        specimens +/- depending on width). Our barcodes are visible from above
        so take up space. The CASC also fits 3 rows per unit tray but without
        barcodes their rows have empty space between them for safety of the
        specimens. Thus, our codes don't lead to an increase in storage space
        but do lead to a reduction in safety, at least relative to the CASC.
        These square trays can fit 5 rows if packed 100% with 15mm label-no
        barcode specimens (and some collections use this approach) so the
        space in question is 2/5ths, not 1/2 of that available.

        2. When we scan barcodes it's fast - there is only only one search
        performed and the computer doesn't need to be manipulated between
        scans. We can scan any number of codes with no keystrokes in between.
        One of our largest scanning day involved 4,206 specimens scanned in 5
        hours. I would feel awful asking a student or team of students to type
        in that many numbers! (even if they could find some series that could
        speed entry - and I expect the error rate would be unacceptably high
        as the student's minds began to melt from the seemingly endless typing
        of myriad 12 digit numbers).

        I agree there are serious concerns and Doug has correctly pointed most
        of these out, but our (5 year) experience has so far been positive
        enough to recommend barcodes. Hopefully, we'll still recommend them 50
        years from now!

        -Derek Sikes



        On 8/5/11, Doug Yanega <dyanega@...> wrote:
        > Elizabeth Elle wrote:
        >
        >>I agree that #1 is a good criterion, but disagree a bit about #2 and
        >>3. I print labels from Bartender (linked to our database in Access)
        >>directly onto archival paper, and these labels are basically the
        >>same size as 'normal' labels; they have all the location and
        >>collection information plus a small (5mm x 5mm) barcode.
        >
        > Hmm. There are two things that your comments raise in my mind: (A) we
        > also use Bartender, but someone, somewhere, told us originally (I was
        > not directly involved at the time) that if we wanted to print out
        > matrix barcode labels, it had to be on a $5K thermal printer, rather
        > than on regular paper and a regular printer. I think maybe we were
        > scammed, and are now stuck with a $5K white elephant. It prints 7
        > labels a minute, and we've been told it's performing according to
        > specs. Two faculty members use this system, but the Museum does not.
        > (B) adding a 5 x 5 mm barcode to a label that is already 15 mm long
        > does indeed lead to a 22-mm-long label. A few other folks have
        > suggested shortening the labels by using tinier text, but then it
        > becomes very very hard to read, and that's not user-friendly, since
        > humans DO use those labels, especially humans borrowing those
        > specimens who do not happen to have barcode scanners.
        >
        >>We mostly use the barcode and our handheld scanner to enter specimen
        >>identifications into our database, linking the species name to the
        >>unique numerical identifier on each label. Our system is heavily
        >>derivative of the BBSL system, and for the work we do--mostly
        >>ecological/fragmentation studies where we collect many thousands of
        >>specimens in a given year--I find this reduces entry errors greatly.
        >>I imagine that whether starting with a system like this makes sense
        >>will depend greatly on how people collect things and how they want
        >>to archive them.
        >
        > The list of complicating factors is pretty extensive, and even this
        > brief description of your system points out two such factors: the
        > first is that when one has specimens from thousands of different
        > localities, the odds that a person mistyping a specimen number will
        > turn up a record that happens to be from the same date and locality
        > is very small, so they can easily catch their own error - but in your
        > case, it sounds like you might have thousands of specimens with
        > identical date/locality data, reducing the odds that pulling up the
        > wrong record would make it obvious that it *was* the wrong record.
        > That increases the utility of the barcodes in your context.
        >
        > What the second factor relates to is that you don't say whether you
        > are labelling your specimens before or after some sort of rough
        > morphospecies sorting; if they are largely sorted before labeling
        > (this is something I do here), then the odds are greatly increased
        > that any set of specimens belonging to the same taxon will have
        > numbers in sequence, and this is one area where a human being who is
        > handed a bunch of labels and asked to type in (or write down) the
        > specimen numbers can actually go much faster than a person who is
        > simply scanning one specimen after another rather than reading the
        > labels themselves.
        >
        > Consider this experiment: I assign a student to scan a set of 50
        > specimens that all belong to one species; they dutifully scan them,
        > creating 50 find commands executed as part of one search, and it
        > takes them about 5 minutes, depending in part on how nicely
        > positioned the labels are in the unit tray (scan one, wait a second
        > for the beep, perform a few keystrokes, scan the next, beep, a few
        > more keystrokes, and so on). I hand the same unit to another student
        > and then ask them to read the labels themselves and type them in, and
        > they notice within a matter of seconds that the labels - while
        > scrambled slightly as part of the experiment - form a sequence
        > starting with 177521 and ending with 177570. They sit down, enter ONE
        > find command (177521-177570), summon up all 50 records
        > simultaneously, and they're finished in roughly one minute (most of
        > that time being spent mentally going over the numbers, and only a few
        > seconds actually typing). Which system is more effiicient? Even if
        > the student with the scanner had noticed the sequentiality, they
        > still would have had to spend the same amount of time mentally going
        > over the numbers to be sure they were all there, and the time
        > difference between scanning in two 6-digit numbers and *typing* in
        > two 6-digit numbers is negligible. There is no way that the person
        > with the scanner, *in this experiment*, could get the task done
        > significantly faster than the person typing. The maximum time
        > advantage is when all 50 numbers are completely randomized, and even
        > then, a student who can read and type 6-digit numbers can work almost
        > as fast as one using a scanner (unless the *only* task is the entry
        > of numbers, and few or no other keystrokes are performed) - which is
        > why I maintain that, in practice, the only functional difference is
        > the error rate.
        >
        > Peace,
        > --
        >
        > Doug Yanega Dept. of Entomology Entomology Research Museum
        > Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314 skype: dyanega
        > phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
        > http://cache.ucr.edu/~heraty/yanega.html
        > "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
        > is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82
        >


        --

        +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
        Derek S. Sikes, Curator of Insects
        Assistant Professor of Entomology
        University of Alaska Museum
        907 Yukon Drive
        Fairbanks, AK 99775-6960

        dssikes@...
        http://users.iab.uaf.edu/~derek_sikes/sikes_lab.htm

        phone: 907-474-6278
        FAX: 907-474-5469

        University of Alaska Museum -
        http://www.uaf.edu/museum/collections/ento/
        +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

        Interested in Alaskan Entomology? Join the Alaska Entomological Society and
        / or sign up for the email listserv "Alaska Entomological Network" at
        http://www.akentsoc.org/contact.php
      • H
        All- sorry for the late addition to this discussion but I ve been avoiding it as much as I ve been thinking about it.. Here at the Bee Lab [Logan] we have used
        Message 3 of 9 , Aug 22 3:35 PM
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          All- sorry for the late addition to this discussion but I've been avoiding it as much as I've been thinking about it..

          Here at the Bee Lab [Logan] we have used a progression of scanners and systems. Currently our database system involves using a SQL server [users work in MS ACCESS] dumping into a program called Bartender [made by Seagull > http://www.seagullscientific.com/aspx/welcome.aspx]. We no longer use "scanners" but instead have started using "Area Imagers"  [http://www.honeywellaidc.com/en-US/Pages/Product.aspx?category=Area%20Imager&cat=HSM&pid=4820_ ]. Please send me a email directly [hikerd@...] if you would like a PDF example of the insect labels. We print 2D-Data Matrix and not the typical barcode that most people are familiar.

          Advantages? Yes... we like our current system and the scanner saves time in our situation. The current version of Bartender is very flexible. The database/bartender is printing to a relatively inexpensive Brother HL-5370Dw series printer on 80lb. archival paper. While we have one main label format that includes your basic who, on what, when, and where, we also have about a dozen other label formats for special projects. Example - one format prints two labels. The first is our normal version plus a second, smaller number-only label to go with the separate DNA vial. Other versions include identification labels, Holotype labels, pollen slide labels and even temporary plant voucher labels for the plants. One goal in this is to have everything from entry, analysis to final reports flow through the database. This alludes to my next point, Quality Control.

          All of our project bees go through a Data Quality Check before the labels are put on the specimens. The process usually follows this progression:

          1. Project location is entered into an authority file [location table]
          2. Technician counts the specimens for each collection event
          3. Each collection event is entered into the database with number of specimens
          4. In the case of pan traps 10 entries can quickly be turned into 1500 labels.
          5. Data Quality Check - Summation sheet is printed out with Labels - so the Technician can easily proof the labels [4pt font] with the head labels and/or field notes.
          6. Entry errors fixes and reprinting is done if need be.
          7. Specimens are labeled.

          Normal batches like this are usually done for about 50 to 1500 specimens at a time. I cannot stress the data checks. If you have more than 2 people working within a data set, I will stress QC even more! Here is an example from the medical field: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2656002/
          Summation.."13.5% error rate in each of the databases." Maybe not the best example but it paints the picture and I'm assuming everyone here has had to clean a data set after finding what started to be a very small glitch.

          Labeling represents the first level of QC followed by a 1% spot check of the specimens before sorting to the generic level and remove of the head label/field notes. The only way to truly save time when investing time to build a database / use scanners and/or large data sets is to catch mistakes and clean the data set before analysis highlights entry mistakes. 
           
          Other areas that have proven efficiency gains by using the Database/Scanner:

          • Specimen Identification input and thus Determination tracking
          • Loan processing
          • Flagging of questionable specimens or data entry

          Areas that will prove to be time sinks:

          • setup time
          • learning curve of a new system
          • Building authority tables [collector, locality, species... etc.]

           Concerns/Priorities:

          • Unique number on every specimen.
          • Quality Control and Change Tracking
          • Flexibility of your system. It works great for the current project but what about the next.
          • Data Legacy?

          Hope this helps,
          H



          HW Ikerd
          Hikerd@...
          435-227-5711 (Google Voice)
          435-797-2526(work)
          http://biocol.org/urn:lsid:biocol.org:col:33039


        • Doug Yanega
          ... Has anyone tested how well 2D matrices hold up over time, or what happens if the printer starts to get low on toner? We ve noticed that even a high-end
          Message 4 of 9 , Aug 22 4:23 PM
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            Re: [beemonitoring] bar or scan-code systems to aid insect
            Harold Ikerd wrote:

            Advantages? Yes... we like our current system and the scanner saves time in our situation. The current version of Bartender is very flexible. The database/bartender is printing to a relatively inexpensive Brother HL-5370Dw series printer on 80lb. archival paper.

            Has anyone tested how well 2D matrices hold up over time, or what happens if the printer starts to get low on toner? We've noticed that even a high-end thermal printer will occasionally "drop out" black bits in the matrix, effectively turning binary "1"s onto "0"s, and corrupting the resulting scan. This would be an important baseline to establish, as it's certain to be non-zero; but non-zero by how much?

            This alludes to my next point, Quality Control.

            All of these steps you outline are sensible and practical, though they are (or should be) part and parcel of using a database as an integral part of specimen processing, and can be done with *any* uniquely-numbered labels, not just *scannable* uniquely-numbered labels.

            Other areas that have proven efficiency gains by using the Database/Scanner:
            • Specimen Identification input and thus Determination tracking
            • Loan processing
            • Flagging of questionable specimens or data entry

            In side-by side comparison of labels with human-readable numbers versus machine-readable numbers, the scanners don't always win; various factors can enable a person to work just as fast, or faster, by NOT relying upon a scanner (especially when dealing with legacy material, as I've also mentioned before - admittedly, having the scannable label on the top can significantly improve efficiency). As I've noted before, the only concrete and indisputable advantage is in error rate, and the exact magnitude of that error depends (as noted above) on the data matrix being printed properly in the first place and not deteriorating over time, and - perhaps more significantly - all errors, be they human or machine, SHOULD be caught by QC protocols in either case, for comparable amounts of effort. In other words, I'm not so certain that the efficiency gains of scanning *have* been proven. To *prove* it requires side-by-side comparisons using systems where the ONLY difference is whether a scannable label format is involved or not (same database, same types of specimens, organized the same way, processed by the same people); even those comparisons I've been able to do often required using two different students as test subjects, which introduces unwanted variation.

            Peace,
            -- 
            

            Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
            Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314        skype: dyanega
            phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
                         http://cache.ucr.edu/~heraty/yanega.html
              "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
                    is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82
          • Daniel Kjar
            carve the label in spanglish, in marble. you have no other option. and make sure 8 people watch you do it. i just cant trust anything else.... ... -- Dr.
            Message 5 of 9 , Aug 22 7:01 PM
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              carve the label in spanglish, in marble.  you have no other option.   and make sure 8 people watch you do it.  i just cant trust anything else....

              On 8/22/2011 7:23 PM, Doug Yanega wrote:
               

              Harold Ikerd wrote:

              Advantages? Yes... we like our current system and the scanner saves time in our situation. The current version of Bartender is very flexible. The database/bartender is printing to a relatively inexpensive Brother HL-5370Dw series printer on 80lb. archival paper.

              Has anyone tested how well 2D matrices hold up over time, or what happens if the printer starts to get low on toner? We've noticed that even a high-end thermal printer will occasionally "drop out" black bits in the matrix, effectively turning binary "1"s onto "0"s, and corrupting the resulting scan. This would be an important baseline to establish, as it's certain to be non-zero; but non-zero by how much?

              This alludes to my next point, Quality Control.

              All of these steps you outline are sensible and practical, though they are (or should be) part and parcel of using a database as an integral part of specimen processing, and can be done with *any* uniquely-numbered labels, not just *scannable* uniquely-numbered labels.

              Other areas that have proven efficiency gains by using the Database/Scanner:
              • Specimen Identification input and thus Determination tracking
              • Loan processing
              • Flagging of questionable specimens or data entry

              In side-by side comparison of labels with human-readable numbers versus machine-readable numbers, the scanners don't always win; various factors can enable a person to work just as fast, or faster, by NOT relying upon a scanner (especially when dealing with legacy material, as I've also mentioned before - admittedly, having the scannable label on the top can significantly improve efficiency). As I've noted before, the only concrete and indisputable advantage is in error rate, and the exact magnitude of that error depends (as noted above) on the data matrix being printed properly in the first place and not deteriorating over time, and - perhaps more significantly - all errors, be they human or machine, SHOULD be caught by QC protocols in either case, for comparable amounts of effort. In other words, I'm not so certain that the efficiency gains of scanning *have* been proven. To *prove* it requires side-by-side comparisons using systems where the ONLY difference is whether a scannable label format is involved or not (same database, same types of specimens, organized the same way, processed by the same people); even those comparisons I've been able to do often required using two different students as test subjects, which introduces unwanted variation.

              Peace,
              -- 
              

              Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
              Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314        skype: dyanega
              phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
                           http://cache.ucr.edu/~heraty/yanega.html
                "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
                      is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

              -- 
              Dr. Daniel Kjar
              Assistant Professor of Biology
              Division of Mathematics and Natural Sciences
              Elmira College
              1 Park Place
              Elmira, NY 14901
              607-735-1826
              http://faculty.elmira.edu/dkjar
              
              "...humans send their young men to war; ants send their old ladies"
              	-E. O. Wilson
              
            • John S. Ascher
              I agree with Doug that retroactive data entry can be done efficiently and accurately without use a scanner. We have matrix codes encoding our specimen USIs,
              Message 6 of 9 , Aug 22 11:25 PM
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                I agree with Doug that retroactive data entry can be done efficiently and
                accurately without use a scanner. We have matrix codes encoding our
                specimen USIs, but our technicians find it easy to read the alphanumeric
                codes on the these USIs and to enter the USIs manually. They don't seem to
                make frequent or serious errors in doing so (in part because our database
                has built in safeguards to prevent overwriting of data, inadvertent entry
                of too many records at once, etc) and all of them regard recording of the
                USI as one of the quickest and easiest of their assigned tasks.

                However, when dealing with proactive data entry systems or whenever one
                must update species identifications or other information for a large
                number of records, especially if these involve diverse taxa or collecting
                events, it is extremely useful to have machine-readable matrix codes on
                the USI labels. We find the scanner most useful when processing large
                loans, especially complex ones such as those involving synoptic
                collections.

                We have the ability to make bulk updates to selected records using an Edit
                Mode in our system, so in all but the most complex cases we can make
                necessary name changes and make other updates quickly, easily, and
                reliably, without having to read USIs from labels (whether manually or by
                a scanner). Without such a "bulk update" functionality we would have far
                more occasion to machine-read our USI labels.

                Our labels have the USI alphnumeric written out as well as encoded in the
                matrix, and this redundancy increases my confidence that most labels will
                be readable by either a human or a machine in the distant future. The best
                long-term insurance is to properly maintain and curate the specimens so
                that these can be reexamined if associated data are lost or corrupted. It
                should be obvious that archiving of specimens is even more important than
                archiving associated data, but many data capture initiatives seem to
                concern themselves more or only with the latter (the idea being I suppose
                that once the data are recorded "permanently" we need not worry too much
                about the physical specimen." It seems to me that essential curation both
                before and after data entry is an under-appreciated aspect of existing and
                planned databasing programs! I suppose that this is expected to be done
                for free without dedicated external funding?

                "Flagging of questionable specimens or data entry"

                This is clearly a benefit of using a database and associated informatics
                tools, but is this really a benefit derived from use of the scanner?

                Having just visited the BBSL and glimpsed the size and rapid growth of
                their collection, I can see that they really need make optimal use of
                available tools, including machine-readable labels, as H is doing, whereas
                as smaller collection could muddle through with a less sophisticated
                system.

                Rather than entering or reading USIs, the more difficult challenges our
                data entry personnel face that routinely cause serious errors include 1)
                the difficulty of deciphering illegible labels and 2) the difficulty of
                sorting out near-duplicate localities. Many resulting outright errors or
                suboptimal decisions can be sorted out after the fact, without use of a
                scanner at any point, once these are detected by robots (e.g., Discover
                Life error-checking functions) and human experts. Used of a shared,
                web-based system (one with many users some of which are active and expert
                in taxonomy and/or geography) increases the likelihood that such
                retroactive corrections will be made in a timely fashion.

                As far as efficiency of data entry, a big time sink is the need to cut and
                affix species determination and USI labels with due care to delicate
                specimens.

                Two of the best ways to improve both reliability and efficiency of data
                capture, both of which we use in our AMNH system are:

                1) Bulk entry of as much data as possible from reliable,
                centrally-maintained authority files so that data entry personnel select
                from these rather than typing data (no data entry technician using our
                system is allowed to type a bee name or a country name, ever!).

                2) Full use of autocomplete and tab-through functionality (as available in
                Mozilla Firefox) so that data bulk entered from the authority files
                referred to above can be located and selected very quickly with few
                keystrokes and with minimal or no use of a mouse.

                These things are described in the following paper:

                Schuh, R. T., Hewson-Smith, S., and J. S. Ascher. 2010. Specimen
                databases: a case study in entomology using web-based software. American
                Entomologist 56(4): 206-216.

                I'm happy to send a pdf to anyone who's interested.

                John



                > Harold Ikerd wrote:
                >
                >>Advantages? Yes... we like our current system and the scanner saves
                >>time in our situation. The current version of Bartender is very
                >>flexible. The database/bartender is printing to a relatively
                >>inexpensive Brother HL-5370Dw series printer on 80lb. archival paper.
                >
                > Has anyone tested how well 2D matrices hold up over time, or what
                > happens if the printer starts to get low on toner? We've noticed that
                > even a high-end thermal printer will occasionally "drop out" black
                > bits in the matrix, effectively turning binary "1"s onto "0"s, and
                > corrupting the resulting scan. This would be an important baseline to
                > establish, as it's certain to be non-zero; but non-zero by how much?
                >
                >>This alludes to my next point, Quality Control.
                >
                > All of these steps you outline are sensible and practical, though
                > they are (or should be) part and parcel of using a database as an
                > integral part of specimen processing, and can be done with *any*
                > uniquely-numbered labels, not just *scannable* uniquely-numbered
                > labels.
                >
                >>Other areas that have proven efficiency gains by using the
                >> Database/Scanner:
                >>
                >>Specimen Identification input and thus Determination tracking
                >>Loan processing
                >>Flagging of questionable specimens or data entry
                >
                > In side-by side comparison of labels with human-readable numbers
                > versus machine-readable numbers, the scanners don't always win;
                > various factors can enable a person to work just as fast, or faster,
                > by NOT relying upon a scanner (especially when dealing with legacy
                > material, as I've also mentioned before - admittedly, having the
                > scannable label on the top can significantly improve efficiency). As
                > I've noted before, the only concrete and indisputable advantage is in
                > error rate, and the exact magnitude of that error depends (as noted
                > above) on the data matrix being printed properly in the first place
                > and not deteriorating over time, and - perhaps more significantly -
                > all errors, be they human or machine, SHOULD be caught by QC
                > protocols in either case, for comparable amounts of effort. In other
                > words, I'm not so certain that the efficiency gains of scanning
                > *have* been proven. To *prove* it requires side-by-side comparisons
                > using systems where the ONLY difference is whether a scannable label
                > format is involved or not (same database, same types of specimens,
                > organized the same way, processed by the same people); even those
                > comparisons I've been able to do often required using two different
                > students as test subjects, which introduces unwanted variation.
                >
                > Peace,
                > --
                >
                > Doug Yanega Dept. of Entomology Entomology Research Museum
                > Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314 skype: dyanega
                > phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
                > http://cache.ucr.edu/~heraty/yanega.html
                > "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
                > is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82


                --
                John S. Ascher, Ph.D.
                Bee Database Project Manager
                Division of Invertebrate Zoology
                American Museum of Natural History
                Central Park West @ 79th St.
                New York, NY 10024-5192
                work phone: 212-496-3447
                mobile phone: 917-407-0378
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