I absolutely love Nancy Collins's article in the new Spring issue of American Entomologist. She's a perfect example of a passionate naturalist, a taxonomic specialist of Ocanthinae (tree crickets). She has traveled the continent (and beyond), collecting, recording songs, and identifying specimens. Her website is excellent, with a level of detail and public outreach to serve as models for the rest of us. She is a scientist.
But I don't see why I need to talk about her as a "citizen scientist". She has published original research, worked in connection with other researchers, presented at professional meetings, and is an expert in her group. She's an autodidact, sure, but so is every other taxonomist; specialist taxonomy isn't exactly taught in classes. There's no "Orthoptera 101" course taught at university. I for one don't think there is a need for a disclaimer at the bottom of her website, saying her research "has no scientific basis".
Is there something I'm missing here, some sort of requirement that scientists must get paid to do scientific work in order to be (flat out) scientists? Am I the only one who thinks oxymoron when the phrase "professional amateur" appears in print?
I'm not knocking the intentions of the American Entomologist editors. This issue's focus on "citizen science" was a product of a special session from last year's annual meeting. It was meant to spotlight entomological research going on outside of academia, which is good and right and noble. And I know they didn't mean anything insulting by it.
But when people of any age do good scientific research, paid or unpaid, within or outside of academia they are not "citizen-scientists" or "para-taxonomists", they are just scientists and taxonomists. They are certainly not "amateurs", as their knowledge attests to work equaling "professionals". I can't be the only one who finds this condescension like head patting when a child scores high on an exam. I value Nancy's research higher than that. We don't need to qualify it as somehow different.
Or if you must, 'taxahacker' is acceptable. Though, some people may find that offensive for other reasons.