I think this is a powerful point, one from folks over at the Mozilla project.
That video/presentation by David Eaves is amazing. There's lots of ways we can tackle these issues, and I wonder if expanding our team working on this stuff would be useful.
It could also relate to Stewart and Sara's idea of expanding what shows up on peoples' profile pages; are they proficient mappers? Are they working on spectrometry, or web community work (like this thread)? Do such things show up (as badges or whatever) on their profile pages, or next to their name/thumbnail in comments?
Haha did Eaves say "kitty gloves"? Wow, that was a great talk. On the idea of expanding our community who are tackling these issues, I think there are areas we can be productive:
1 - Promoting good behavior.
Productive social behaviors should constantly be at the forefront of our minds when interacting with groups of people. Inquire, paraphrase, acknowledge, advocate. If we're not constantly doing all four of these then we are being unproductive as a communities we are taking part in. Luckily, the Public Labs community seems to pretty amicable so far but I wonder what we could do to promote awareness on this issue.
2 - Increasing transparency so we know how to behave appropriately.
Eaves idea to indicate when a user is new and their language is a DAMN GOOD CALL. I know I've personally been in the situation where I'm thinking to myself, "DOES THIS PERSON UNDERSTAND THE WORDS I AM WRITING??" only to realize, "oh, english isn't their first language, no biggie :P."
I've been wanting to write a blog series lately called "Drupal for Science" where I profile PublicLaboratory.org, FarmHack.net, EBICS.net, the Science Collaboration Framework on Drupal (http://sciencecollaboration.org/), and NASA's use of Drupal (http://groups.drupal.org/node/208098) in separate posts and then cross post them around the Drupal community to try and stir some interest in possibly getting more volunteers involved on dev.
On a side note, I've been reading "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cathedral_and_the_Bazaar and it's really opening my eyes to how important community reputation is. I'm also seeing the struggle that the Drupal community is having in getting a reputation system in place on Drupal.org. It might not even be possible this late in the game because too many people would be upset about it replacing the old reputation system based in our heads.