An estimated 390 million herbarium specimens worldwide provide data for scientific study, but specimen labels must be transcribed into standardized databases to be readily useable by the scientific community. Yet, data entry cannot be completed with current staffing and funding. Notes from Nature provides an infrastructure for community science transcription of natural history specimen labels with tutorials and a platform for communication among community scientists and researchers. The Plants of Arkansas project, now led by the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, built an active transcription community by coordinating local universities, recruiting service organizations, and engaging worldwide users online. Training members of service organizations creates continuing users dedicated to the project, and students learn about natural history collections and community science through real-world assignments. Our goals are to: 1) enumerate participants and transcription of the first 3.5 years of the project, 2) describe in-person events for recruitment, training, and connection with local collections, and 3) propose recommendations based on the evidence that increased engagement results in increased rates of contribution. The distribution of transcriptions per user compares to other community science projects, with a few individuals who transcribe thousands of labels. However, we have had more users that contribute >50 transcriptions in the Plants of Arkansas project. With our project's success, we offer suggestions to manage a transcription community and advance the rate of specimen digitization worldwide.
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Vol. 87 • No. 1