Re: Records Appraisal Committee FAQ

Subject: Re: Records Appraisal Committee FAQ
From: (Dr Richard Nowotny)
Date: Thu, 15 May 1997 19:12:11 +1000
Thanks for sending this around - most interesting.
Some suggestions:       ? publish in Wingspan for wider dissemination
                                           How about publishing the results
of the RAC's deliberations in Wingspan
a la the American Birding Association?
                                           I look forward to the Web page -
can you keep us posted via birding-aus?
Richard Nowotny     

PS  There are 1 or 2 minor typo's.

>The recent communication regarding possible name changes to the Records 
>Appraisal Committee has resulted in a number of requests for more  
>information about the committee and the way it works.  Consequently I have 
>put together below a frequently asked questions page that may assist those 
>interested in the committee and in particular those contemplating a  
>Records Appraisal Committee FAQ's 
>1. What is the function of the RAOU Rarities committee in Australia?  
>Basically it is to provide an informed, discerning and impartial appraisal 
>on submissions relating to reports of rare birds in Australia and its 
>2. Why have an appraisal committee at all? 
>There are many reports of rare birds which are never published in any  
>form.  In time these are often forgotten or at best treated as unconfirmed. 
>In many countries files of the rarities committee act as an accepted  
>repository for such records and help to resolve this problem.  It is hoped  
>that in the future the same will apply here in Australia.  Not that long  
>ago, a record of a rarity was not considered adequately documented unless  
>it was collected and retained as a museum specimen.  Today the  
>ornithological community has a lot more confidence in field observations, 
>but this does not obviate the need for field notes to help authenticate  
>sightings.  Even the best observers make mistakes and many rare birds  
>pose identification problems that are often relatively unfamiliar to  
>Australian birders.  
>Rarities are worth reporting.  They provide interesting distributional  
>records that add to our knowledge of how migration systems work and  
>improve our knowledge of field identification techniques.  New records for  
>a country are particularly important, as they influence what goes into  
>checklists and field guides. 
>3. How many members are there to the committee?  
>There are eight members one of whom is the chairman; proxy members are  
>also used should any of the eight on the committee be unavailable.  All  
>members of the committee work voluntarily in their own time on behalf of  
>the RAOU. 
>4. Which species are reviewed?  
>A review list of national rarities is maintained and revised annually and  
>published in the annual report currently available from Birds Australia.   
>It is hoped to have this report available on a web site in the near future.    
>Copies of the Review List can be obtained on request from the Secretary or  
>the Chairman of the Committee. 
>5. What happens once a submission is received?  
>Confirmation of receipt is sent to the originator.  The submission is 
>duplicated and distributed to committee members for voting.  Votes of  
>acceptance or non-acceptance are forwarded together with reasons for  
>decision to the secretary who collates the votes and passes on the case  
>file to the committee Chairman.  The Chairman then prepares a case summary  
>outlining the decision and copies are then distributed to the originator,  
>the Director of the RAOU and the Chairman of the Taxonomic Advisory  
>6. What happens if members votes differ?  
>A count of seven or more votes in favour will result in an accepted 
>submission and votes totalling four or more against will result in non- 
>acceptance.  Five or six votes in favour will result in a second round of 
>voting, this time with other members comments available for review.  If 
>after two rounds of voting there are still only five or six in favour,  
>the case will be decided by the committee in a discussion forum, following  
>which a final vote will be taken.  If the case then receives no more than  
>six votes in favour of acceptance, it will be deemed to be one of  
>7. What happens if a member cannot decide how to vote?  
>It is mandatory that all members vote either for acceptance or non- 
>acceptance.  The only other avenue that can be taken in appropriate cases  
>is to request expert opinion.  For example from an overseas ornithologist 
>with recognised specialist knowledge of a particular species or group of  
>birds.  The second or third round of voting will then be based on this  
>information in addition to that already available.  
>8. How can a member vote on a species he knows very little about?  
>In the absence of personal field experience with the species concerned,  
>committee members are expected to research an identification topic using  
>available literature, museum specimens or other sources of information to  
>objectively appraise any report under consideration to the best of his or  
>her ability.  Other members views are not available during the first round  
>of voting. 
>9. What is expected from the observer in the way of a submission?   
>The most common reason for the non-acceptance of a record is lack of 
>information.  Ideally, any birder submitting a report for appraisal should  
>have as documentation a set of field notes made at the time of the  
>observation or as soon as possible thereafter.  Accompanying field  
>sketches, no matter how rudimentary or crude, are an invaluable adjunct to  
>any submission and are strongly encouraged, as are corroborating field  
>notes from other birders.  Photographs are, of course, very desirable  
>provided they accompany a submission.  Claims of species new to Australia  
>or of those involving a very difficult identification problem (e.g. Cook's  
>versus Pycroft's Petrel) naturally require a very high standard of  
>documentation.  Copies of field notes from more than one observer,  
>sketches and photo's where possible are all strongly encouraged. 
>10. Where should I send a submission once it has been completed? 
>Submissions should be sent directly to David W Eades, Secretary, Records  
>Appraisal Committee, Birds Australia, East Hawthorn,  VIC 3123.   
>Submissions can also be passed on to any member of the committee. 
>11. What happens if a record is not accepted?  
>Records are not REJECTED; rather they are NOT ACCEPTED.  A final vote of  
>non-acceptance does not mean that the observer(s) did not site the species  
>claimed; rather, that the information submitted is, in the opinion of the  
>committee, insufficient to establish beyond reasonable doubt the  
>identification or natural occurrence of the species being claimed.  It  
>should be noted that submissions of non-acceptance are not a waste of time.  
>All submissions are filed for future reference and become part of a  
>permanent archive what will serve researchers in the future. 
>12. How long does it take for a Committee decision to become available? 
>This has been an ongoing problem for the committee particularly with the 
>more difficult cases.  This topic was discussed at our recent annual  
>meeting and we are striving to improve our procedures and efficiency in  
>order to reduce waiting times.  A straightforward case should take no  
>longer than two to three months.  Submissions that involve more than one  
>round of voting, require expert opinion or have only one set of  
>photographs may take longer.  In such instances the originator will be  
>notified in writing.  Birders whose submissions include photographs could  
>help us by including additional copies (7 if possible) this would enable  
>us to circulate the case more quickly. 
>Our thanks to all for their interest and support. 
>Tony Palliser   
>Chairman RAOU Records Appraisal Committee. 
>Phone.....+61 2 9900 1678 or Home +61 2 9427 7563   
>Fax.......+61 2 9900 1669 

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