Adding nondisagreeing genus ID after a more specific ID was made

If an observation has one ID, all the way down to subspecies right off the bat, and I come along and give it a second ID to species, as long as I am careful not to choose explicit disagreement in the pop up, the observation goes immediately to research grade with the subspecies still on the community taxon. This may not happen to most people very often, but I actually see it quite a lot, because my local plant expert always puts subspecies on his own observations at upload, and I’m usually the second IDer.


Neat! I didn’t know that.

May I note another problem with knocking an observation down to genus or higher level: one expert is methodically going through observations of bees and knocking almost all down on the grounds that the submitted photo doesn’t allow a guarantee that the specimen can not be another species. When he is finished, the usefulness of all bee data within iNat will be severely impaired by removing them all from Research Grade.

yes, this is true. i guess i should clarify in my original statement that i make a higher nonspecies id on a subspecies identified needs ID observation, it will temporarily move it to the rank of my ID, even if not a disagreement.


Given current iNat policy, it makes a lot of people angry. When a species ID has a genus ID added, iNat downgrades the observation to genus. The observation should be downgraded only if the genus identifier disagrees with the species ID; with no disagreement iNat should keep the species ID as the ‘community value’.

The issue is there are 2 separate ways to add such an ID. The first is to say, I know the record is in that genus, but I cant confirm it is the species you state. It may or may not be that.

The 2nd is to say you are unquestionably wrong in your ID.

The challenge is only the 2nd will remove research grade status, so users who feel their mission is to ‘clean up’ data will use the 2nd option, even if there is no way they can demonstrate the ID is wrong, merely that it may not be correct.


Curious: that used to happen when I was on; I just switched to and what I have just suggested is now happening!
However the problem was solved, I’m grateful :)

I see 2 cases where actually adding a genus ID is very important:

(1) if there is a disagreement between diffrent identifiers. Then the headline is going to the common higher taxon. It now needs 3 agreeing IDs or more. In such a case, even a genus may result in an improved headline! Only headlines are searchable, note that! If you are not sure, put in your ID and see if the headline changes to the better. If not, I’d rather delete it again…

(2) Sometimes the photo doesn’t allow to identify better than genus. This can be its quality / angle the picture has been taken at, or it is a genus difficult / impossible to identify to species from a photo. In such a case a 2nd ID of a genus will confirm the 1st identifier. You may also tick the box “as good as it can get” to make a genus research grade, if you are confident to do that. If you are not, don’t.

I know I also get some angry reactions, but I try to explain why I am giving only a genus ID. ;-)


On the contrary: the usefulness of bee data on iNaturalist will be greatly improved, because there will be fewer false positives for any given species. It’s important not to mislead users of our data by suggesting it’s better than it really is. If an expert sees irresponsible identifications, they’re doing us all a service by trimming our sails. Not to mention, we don’t want to be training the CV on something that’s ambiguous.


Honestly, this debate can, and will given its long history go around in circles. It simply comes down to which you think is a bigger issue, potentially incorrect data remaining in place, or potentially correct data being removed.


This is the situation where I often find myself adding a genus ID to something that already includes a species ID. In particular, observations where the observer has added an order ID of Araneae (Spiders) and someone else has come along and added a species ID for a member of order Opiliones (Harvestmen), causing the observation to be at the class level Arachnida. I can’t confirm it’s that particular species but I can verify that it’s within Opiliones rather than Araneae and add an ID accordingly.


What’s more, an observation can become RG at the genus level if the “Cannot Be Improved” box gets ticked. This seems like the best case scenario (and I assume the intended outcome) for observations that cannot unambiguously be assigned to a species. @johnsankey Maybe you can suggest this to your bee expert?


Please remember that the iNaturalist Community Guidelines ask us to assume that others mean well. As has been demonstrated by the many replies here, I don’t believe it’s fair to assume ignorance or laziness on the parts of others, there are plenty of benevolent reasons one would do this. Implicit in sharing your observations to iNaturalist is that anyone can add an ID or comment to it, and as long as what they are doing is reasonable, in good faith, and doesn’t violate the Community Guidelines, it’s their prerogative. If there’s a person or persons doing this consistently to you observaitons, you can reach out to them and as them in a civil manner to stop doing that to your observations.

Like @bouteloua says it’s not usually standard practice (at least in my experience) but it’s acceptable. I imagine we all have our own vision of an ideal iNaturalist experience, but this is a worldwide community of people who have a huge range of experience levels, interests, and motivations, and we have to accept that it won’t be perfect.


The problem is that the way it’s worded, it’s hard to understand which is which. What it says is:

Is the evidence provided enough to confirm this is [species]?
I don’t know but I am sure this is [genus]
No, but it is a member of [genus]

What it should say is something like:

Are you disagreeing that this is [species]?
Yes, I am familiar with [species] and I do not think there is enough evidence to identify it beyond [genus]
No, I am only confirming the identity at the level of [genus]


Honestly while it is a problem I’m not sure any wording matters unless there is a consistent application and standard of how it should be used.

You can have the clearest wording in the world there and if users still see it as their role to eliminate records from research grade where the ID is not confirmable, but also not confirmably wrong, they will do just that.

All it takes is a group of users doing that despite the intention of the configuration and the wording is irrelevant.

I continue to lean further and further towards removing the buttons completely, just enter the ID you can support and let the algorithm work out the results.

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I am confused now. Are you saying if a photo is too poor for a definite identification, any plausible species identification is acceptable and should not be downgraded?

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Maybe he is? Aren’t we encouraged to consider description and other notes as valid when making an ID, and not the photo alone?

Also, there have been many discussions about what can be gleaned from even a “poor” quality photo.


I’m fine with this as long as you are willing to make the effort to go back and withdraw your identification after the species ID has been resolved by experts. If you aren’t willing to do that, you may be obfuscating the real ID.

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Because some people clearly are using it just to add their ID as far as they can do it themselves, and if they can’t tell which to select then they’re unintentionally overriding the RG determinations of others.

This would end up with most insects not being identified.

The issue is people overriding it after it’s been resolved by experts. In some cases it’s true that you can’t identify it to species from the photo, but I noted in the comment that I collected it and confirmed the ID with a microscope, and have still had someone add a genus-level ID that bumped it down.

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I’m saying the current process has 2 different ways of adding a dissenting ID:

  • that it is possible that the species level id is correct, but there are also other possibilities that can not be excluded by the evidence provided
  • that the species level ID is unquestionably wrong.

My feeling is the 2nd should only be used when the standard is met that the current id is unquestionably wrong. Unfortunately it is also used by people in situation #1 because it removes research grade status from the record, while the 1st does not.

If #1 applies, then please do add the id, just under that approach.