A discussion among users before changing taxonomy as a general rule

Day by day I notice that many taxa are changing their scientific name on iNat. This phenomenon is particularly relevant for changes that regard higher rank taxa such as genera or for taxa that are much observed on iNat.
Nothing dramatic but I am deeply convinced that a discussion involving the users who have posted many observations related to the entities that could be going to change name is something desirable.

The place where this discussion could take place is either the forum or a user journal.


When you say changing name, do you mean the taxonomy actually changing? Like a species moving to another genus, a family changing, etc? Or do you mean the common name changing?

Of course scientific names since I refer to taxonomy in the title, and I meant the site taxonomy.
I am not interested in common names.

What should be discussed? iNat uses taxonomy bases, the only question that should be discussed is adding species not in bases, and it’s already discussed on the forum.

iNat taxonomy follows widely-accepted authorities for most groups, so there shouldn’t be much need for user discussion - what purpose would it serve for you?


I thought I was in a community where discussion would be possible, especially on taxonomy. Ok, I was wrong.

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I’m confused by your response! You didn’t answer my question but seemed to interpret my asking it as an attempt to shut you down, which wasn’t my intention. I’m actually curious - what would be the purpose of a discussion held for each potential taxonomy change?


@blue_celery could you point out an example of a scientific name change that you would have liked to see discussed?

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Forgive me if I took your comment as I did but you seemed to be contrary to discussions.
I only wrote that in some cases a discussion would be desirable whatever the chosen base for the site taxonomy states. It is something that it is not useful for me in particular but it could be useful for many.

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If there’re particular examples we’re open to discussion and it can be started on either forum or flag discussion, and it’s done if needed. So what’s your question/proposal?

This is an example of what I am referring:
Users were asked to provide a point of view.

Currently the site taxonomy of the old genus Orobanche follows this reference:
which is now widely accepted among taxonomists and in coutries that are updating their vascular plants checklists. I really fear to see changes soon for these taxa. As already said, it is not dramatic but it would be upsetting as well as possibly also frustrating for some (or many) users.

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This looks like a good discussion, thanks for giving this example. So your proposal is then to make these kinds of conversations more public? I would support that.

Note that it looks like you’re talking about changes to the taxonomy and not simply scientific name changes. Maybe a forums category dedicated to taxonomic discussion could be considered.


It is neither here or there, but as an amateur everything, I do find it disconcerting to read that a taxon has changed (abruptly) for a species I thought I had been confidently identifying for some time.
Is there a way for me to be aware of pending taxon changes?
Case in point… the great soapberry event last fall in Texas.

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One comment I would make is as much as possible this kind of discussion should be done within the context of a flag on the specific organism.

  • only a small percentage of iNat users are active on the forum, so anything done here will be missed potentially by a large percent of potentially interested users
  • the example above is in a journal post, while the user did flag a series of people they felt may be interested, again, this will be invisible to a high percent of users.

I am realizing that I probably did not explain well my point of view in my first post of this thread.
I am not against any backbone for taxonomy but I am starting to feel the same as connlindajo did.

yes, the taxon flag could be the same a right place for such discussions.

In the end: before changing something, it could be wise to evaluate the possible effects on the other users’ perception, especially if an organism is extremely widespread and photographed here and its taxonomy is not the same among different countries.

PS: I know well that such a process would be be time-consuming.


I don’t think there is anything that can be done here. It is not practical, nor desirable in my view to have what is the same species called and identified as different things (having synonyms so they can be searched for is fine)in different places in the world. There is also a significant risk of this being caused simply by regional or national checklists or guides etc not keeping up with changes in taxonomy. If the national checklist is outdated, the taxonomy on the site should not reflect or defer to that.


I agree with you that what is to be avoided is to foster a sort of “taxonomical nationalism” but a discussion could be a place also to make users uderstand that the taxonomy they are more confident with is not the most suitable.
Anyway I would not bet on backbone references as something that is always what is most up-to-date or always the most acceptable.

There was heated discussion in South Africa around acacias.
Our invasive Australians have kept Acacia
We have unwillingly had to learn to call our acacias either Vachellia or Senegalia
It isn’t a decision we, can influence or change.


But it has been discussed, whether you liked or not the taxonomic changes.
I did not take part in that discussion and of course I do not know how it had been carried out but, possibly, sharing the literature on the basis of the proposed taxon changes could have made them more acceptable.

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The change for Physalia physalis a while back is a good example. A change was made and the conversation followed, when perhaps the discussion should have taken place first. The problem is that you can hold that conversation, but those that are affected or would be interested, don’t find out about it until after the fact anyway… But at least the dialogue is there to help explain the change…