A great frustration many of us have with iNat is the ease with which inexperienced users can “agree” an observation to “research grade”. Many users seem to use this button as a sort of thank you. A possible solution to this that I’ve not seen suggested is to implement a pop-up form when the agree button is clicked (and, better, yet, for all identifications). This can be used to nudge the identifier (particularly new users to this site) into making more informed decisions.
For example, this could require a user to rate the confidence of their ID on a scale (1-10). This form would also be a great place to provide tips for inexperienced naturalists on HOW to accurately identify.
“Don’t guess at species-level IDs”
“Don’t agree with an ID unless you recognize diagnostic traits”
“Be sure the ID is geographically appropriate”
“Be sure the species can be identified from morphology alone”
Another useful addition to this form would be an expertise index. Have a second requirement to rate your expertise in the taxon you are identifying (1-10).
And how about additional (optional) boxes that ask specific questions related to the ID… “What morphological traits support your ID?” “What diagnostic traits are not visible in this observation?” “Are there other taxa that this might potentially be?” I suspect that by asking specific questions (versus the single empty box we currently have) there will be more of an impulse from users to add detail and open more of a dialogue.
The idea is to make the process of agreement and identification more thoughtful and communicative. In its current state, the vast majority of IDs are offered with no comments, which makes it difficult to know what weight they should be given. Of course, this identification form shouldn’t be made so onerous as to discourage participation, which is why I would suggest the only mandatory data to be the confidence and expertise indices.