Authorship and iNaturalist

I’ve been trying to figure out how to show the non-research grade observations I use and making a project is such a great idea! It also seems like a great way to let the observers know, by adding it to the project

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Yes you can cite one or more iNat observations in a paper. I have done that. Because yes, to some extent the info is already published by being up on this site.

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In my opinion, I think it wouldn’t be a publication, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a ‘research object’ that could be cited independently. Similar to an herbarium specimen, or ice core, or other physical or digital objects.

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i wasn’t involved in this at all, but my understanding is that one of this person’s observations (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=any&taxon_id=194772&user_id=farkleberry) led to further discussion and a focused effort by this observer and others in the area to collect a museum specimen, which then was included and cited in a range extension note (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/325364151_Recent_Noteworthy_Distribution_Records_for_Deinopis_spinosa_Marx_1889_Araneae_Deinopidae_in_the_Southeastern_United_States), in which that observer was included as a co-author.

I agree with this sentiment. I don’t have strong opinions on when and where the observer merits co-authorship, but for many of my observations that have turned out to be exceptional and “scientifically interesting,” it was the person who did the identifying that made it so. Either by contributing her specialized expertise, or recognizing that something was “out of range,” etc.

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We’ve recently tried to be more clear about this in the FAQs, but citing iNat records from GBIF at all is a huge help, because it makes a link back to iNaturalist in a trackable and scalable way in the form of the citation tracker on the GBIF dataset. (Curators can help wordsmith this for clarity since the FAQs are a wiki page).

How should I cite iNaturalist?

Please cite a GBIF download! The easiest way for us to track research using iNaturalist is for you to download and cite a corresponding dataset from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). Once per week, research grade records on iNaturalist that are licensed for re-use are shared with GBIF. If you need additional records from iNaturalist that are not available from GBIF, you can also cite a dataset downloaded directly from iNaturalist. Citing a DOI for a GBIF dataset allows your publication to automatically be added to the count of citations on the iNaturalist Research-Grade Observations Dataset on GBIF.

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Thanks for the clarification, @carrieseltzer. It seemed confusing to cite a GBIF download for just a subset of the dataset (especially when I already included a web map with a link to every observation), but I realize now that it is useful for sake of the citation tracker. Next time I’ll make sure to cite a GBIF download!

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I would like to highlight that the work to be attributed to an observation is in most cases not the time needed to take that individual picture and upload it to iNat but it is the much bigger work (ok and the fun) related to making and uploading thousands of observations without which that rare and valuable observation wouldn’t ever been recorded.

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My expereince has been that my data is used, sometimes to draw false conclusions and assumptions, but I have never been asked by a single researcher about them or to give me credit. It’s quite frustrating, especially on species where a large percentage of the observations are mine. This happened recently to me. It used to be considered data theft and unethical, but since they are published online, researchers must now feel it’s okay to just cite iNaturalist, and not the data collector.
I am publishing quite a few of my own findings now, especially the species that I have collected far more than anyone else and have new findings to share, hopefully before other researchers mine my data. That’s my only hesitation about posting my findings on inat, is how frequently my data is mined without citing me as the source.

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Something that might or might not be analogous to what you’re describing is the use of preserved museum specimens in a public collection. It’s not unusual for a researcher to use specimens from a museum which have been collected and deposited there by others and to acknowledge in a publication the institution for use of the material but not the individual collectors. I’ve had that happen to me, but didn’t consider it data theft. Once the specimens are in that collection, they are available for others to use … unless there is some existing understanding that the collector is using the material for their own project.

But it can also be a courtesy to credit the collector or even include them as a collaborator in a project if the circumstances allow,

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Citing iNaturalist as a source, is similar to saying … Facebook or Google is a source.
The journal should have publishing / editorial guidelines requiring an actual source.

@jnstuart the museum specimen technically and legally belongs to the museum? Copyright for iNat photos belongs to the photographer / observer, not to iNat.

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Yes, the museum “owns” the specimen once it is deposited there. But my understanding for iNat is that the photo is copyrighted but not necessarily the data associated with the photo. I can’t legally use someone’s iNat photo in my publication without their permission, but I can reference a record on iNat in my own publication without permission.

The iNaturalist database can be and is cited as a reference in publications.

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For what it’s worth, several authors, including iNat users Greg Pauly and Jan Vendetti (I’m not sure if the other co-authors are iNat users) published a paper arguing that citizen scientists deserve co-authorship.

Here’s a podcast with Dr Pauly discussing it: https://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode/citizen-scientists-deserve-journal-status-upgrade/

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Just wondering … I am way out of my league here and apologize in advance for any errs on my part.

It seems you want to slow or limit the use of the data you collect until you have a chance to publish it yourself? I wonder if setting the locations as “Private” - just until you are satisfied you’ve had a fair chance at your own collections - would impede it being mined by other researchers?

I gather, this might kind of an extreme step. If that is a strategy that could work, it would be nice afterwards to go back and update the locations back to Open or Obscured.

yeah. that’s not practical with over 20,000 observations. I agree with the earlier answers that persons who collect data should be credited with such. Just because they can use the data without crediting doesn’t mean they should. I think eventually credible publications will start requiring it some degree. With papers that sources thousands of observations it won’t be practical for all individual observations, but if someone had 150 of the thousand, courtesy would dictate they should be cited as a source.

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Greetings,

I intend to publish a paper based on the project Molluscan Mycophagy that I created and administer. A couple of power users have contributed a number of observations to the project and I have invited them to be authors. Thus far it has only been a presentation at the World Congress of Malacology, but hopefully I will have something before the end of the year is out.

I am curious if authorship as a reward will lead to more focused involvement by community scientists.

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What was your threshold/criteria for extending authorship?

I didn’t really have a threshold, thus far it has been extended to the top three contributors, all of who have been keeping their eye out. I may invite others after I finish curating the observations.

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I generally agree with the sentiment of others. However, I would say that if a single iNat observation (or perhaps a few) are worthy of publication on their own, then the observer would likely be worth of co-authorship. The observer would be expected to review and possibly contribute to a manuscript, as well as agree to everything.

jaykeller and I have an upcoming publication based on this single observation, and we cite the observation itself in the paper.

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I appreciate that you do this. It seems that the scientific community, like most everyone else, are chasing ratings, i.e. they only want to be published in the “influential” journals, and disdain writing papers that would be more suitable for a quality niche journal. But for someone like me, with a scientific background but no institutional affiliation that would enable me to access grants and equipment, the existence of such niche journals is a godsend.

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