Change wording used by the system when downgrading an observation to an higher level taxa


this is mostly just an annoyance, but it is of some importance I think.
I often find myself giving IDs on a genus level to observations which already received an ID to a species level, when i know there is not enough detail to confirm that species. When doing that, the system correctly asks me “is the evidence provided enough to confirm this is…?” and I proceed to answer “No”. But there it comes, under my ID, the sentence “michele DISAGREES that this is X.x species”… Which is simply not true. I do not disagree with the species ID, which may well be correct, I simply want to specifiy that there is not enough evidence to reach that ID level.
Hope I explained myself in a clear English.
Anyone has the same problem?
Wouldn’t be possible to add another question asking whether i really disagree with that ID or not?


this is a complicated one, in part because it’s somewhat controversial in the community whether or not you should explicitly ‘disagree’ with an ID because you think the evidence isn’t sufficient. The problem is, it’s really hard to say that - often one person can’t tell apart a sedge from another without looking closely at achenes, whereas another person can tell based on an overall look at the flowering structure, leaves, habitat, etc. We had a similar case where a person tried to override an ID verified by several sedge experts (who didn’t all post) because they couldn’t verify the ID, or didn’t think the evidence was good enough. Not technically against the rules, but really frustrating as it was overriding the ID for a new state record and really wasn’t necessary. So yeah, to be honest, i’d more prefer the wording for the second part be applied to the first, but then that runs into other issues, like spiders you really can’t identify to species without dissection, etc.


I think the work around is to simply add a comment with your ID, explaining why it can not be ID’d to species, which would probably be appreciated (or refuted!) by those who had ID’d it that far.


I agree with @michele-m here. When I first joined, I got caught out by the same wording a couple of times, and suddenly found I was ‘disagreeing’ when I wasn’t at all. I’m afraid the work-around that I’ve used ever since is to click the first option, which says (roughly) “I don’t know, but it is genus X”. It’s not ideal and it’s not what I really want to say in many cases, but it does avoid being in apparent ‘disagreement’ when I’m not. I would hope the wording in the two options could be tweaked to clarify this; at the very least, I don’t think it’s clear enough at present that when you choose the second option that you will be explicitly disagreeing.


The problem with that first option is that it won’t bump the observation out of RG or count as a vote against it. That’s fine if you are just adding a higher level ID for an observation that you yourself can’t identify, but doesn’t work when the organism is not identifiable to species from the evidence and shouldn’t achieve Research Grade.


I think the problem here is that you are making the wrong choice (maybe due to ambiguous iNat wording) for what you are trying to say.

I think you want to make the “green” choice – “I don’t know but I am sure this is GenusY” – instead of the yellow choice. There might in fact be enough evidence for someone else to ID the suggested species, but not for you. So the best you can say is “I don’t know” if the evidence provided is enough.

My own suggestion would be along the lines of the following (particularly the more explicit classification at the beginning that one is supporting by nature whereas the other is disagreeing by nature):

Green (Supporting ID): “I can neither confirm nor deny that this is Species_A (but intend to support that this indeed is a member of Coarser_Taxon as opposed to another group).” Or “This might be Species_A, but I can neither confirm nor deny.” Or “I don’t intend to explicitly disagree that this might be Species_A but cannot confirm Species_A.”

Orange (Disagreeing ID): “I intend to explicitly disagree that this is Species_A. Rationale for this disagreement will be included with the ID or as a separate comment.”

I think part of the issue is that various users aren’t certain which option has intended disagreement. There are a few reasons why users might intend to add a disagreeing coarser ID, but the majority of uses seem to be more what I’d call a supporting ID (“I can verify so far but can’t go further”) as opposed to “there’s some very direct reason why the finer ID shouldn’t be applied)”.


It is especially a problem for insects/spiders where novices are quick to put sp level IDs based on Field Guides. What field guides don’t tell you is that there are half a dozen other spp that look just the same as sp X. So novices can be forgiven, but it happens so often that experts do need to explicitly disagree and bring the ID back up to genus/ tribe etc level. The wording is the problem as it implies that the only reason for explicit disagreement is that it is definitely not sp X, but, more often than not, they need to bring the ID to a higher level because one cannot be sure it is sp X. I agree that one ideally needs an extra disagreement option, but until then, for now, can we change the wording to something along the lines of ‘ID to X.x species is incorrect/not possible based on the available evidence’? (edit: typos grammar clarity)


Thank you for the feedback @jdmore. I see your point there, but this is not my case. I believe I have enough expertize with certain taxa to understand when the species-level ID was given without any particular knowledge and to realize whether it is possible to reach a certain level or not. When in doubt, I always just leave a comment and ask how that species was identified and wait for the feedback of the user before giving my ID.
So, in my case, I deliberately answer No when that’s the only possible answer to give.
If the final statement under my ID would be consistent with the question asked by the system, I think it would make everybody’s life easier.


Thank you @tony_wills. I do agree that comments would be a workaround. And in most cases I leave a comment. I still find quite odd and confusing, though, that the disagreement sentence under my ID does not state what was orginally asked by the question. I think that making that statement more consistent with the question would already fix part of the problem and there would not be such a urgent need to “clarify” a disagreement.


Yes @vynbos, the simple rephrasing that you proposed would be a nice improvement already.


This is something that staff have been discussing and @loarie has especially been thinking about. We’ve been wrestling with exactly the ambiguity you’ve identified with the two possible interpretations of a disagreement. No proposal to share at this point, but the comments and suggestions here are welcome.


It seems to me that there are actually three use cases combined into the current two options:

  1. I agree that the observation is in this genus, but I am personally uncertain about the species level ID. The use case here seems to be when the identifier does not have the adequate resources on hand or expertise to make the species level ID. The current green option.

  2. I agree that the genus is correct, but this is not the species selected. It is another species in that genus, but the identifier does not have the adequate resources on hand or expertise to make the species level ID.

  3. I agree that the genus is correct, but the evidence provided is not sufficient to make a species level ID. In this case, the identifier does have the adequate resources or expertise to make this call.

As it stands now, #2 and #3 are lumped into the same option (the yellow) with confusing language that is much closer to #2. I would suggest either changing the wording to encompass both (or just #3) or splitting them out as separate options.

In my experience, #2 is the most rare of the three. The only time that really comes up is when the observation represents one of a cryptic species pair that are difficult to distinguish, but the observer has chosen a third species from that genus that can be readily ruled out from the photo.


#2 comes up a lot for large/complex genera, and/or when doing quality control on a particular species, e.g. one of the many computer vision traps misidentified way out of range


Good reminder that the small area of taxa I work on may not be the norm! Regardless, I would still guess that #3 is frequently applicable for those same large or complex genera of difficult to identify organisms.

To me the wording of the options while you are identifying for the yellow button can mean both #2 and #3 just as well, but the wording of the submitted identification implies #2, so that there is discontinuity between the identifier’s experience and the observer’s experience, as @michele_m described.

I most often use the yellow button for #3, for the situation @vynbos described, and I think #2 and #3 are similar enough that just changing the wording as he suggested would solve the issue for the most part. The long discussion on the Google Group about this feature seems to end unresolved about the pros and cons of having a third option.

I don’t use the green button (#1) very often, I think mostly if someone has a species ID and asks me to confirm and I only know enough to tell them they have the genus right, or if there is a species ID and I’m not sure whether or not the photo is enough to confirm the species so I’ll leave a not-explicit disagreement just to indicate I’m not comfortable going to species with that photo. There seems to be some disagreement about how to interpret the green button as well though…


I think I would prefer retaining two options and just amending the wording for the yellow button. Seems easy enough to differentiate between #2 and #3 in comments, where necessary.

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I think it’s important to remember here how Community ID works. You are not putting on the ID of what this observation IS… you are voting with an ID of what YOU THINK IT IS. Think of it like voting in an election… you don’t vote and then EXPECT THEM TO WIN, although you might have decided views about the validity of the outcome!

It is not correct to say it is NOT that species (explicit disagreement) if you can see nothing that would exclude that possibility.

YES, the Identifier that has put species is likely wrong to do so, if it is truly a species that can’t be ascertained from a photo, but the correct course of action is to initiate a dialog. Ask them why they put species. Challenge their thinking, and hopefully they will consider your view and change their ID. Otherwise they will continue to make the same mistakes over and over. State your position clearly, and ask them to consider your reasons and re-evaluate their ID. But don’t bully the observation to a higher taxa just because it’s where YOU think it should be. Make YOUR id as you see it (genus without explicit if that’s as far as you will go, or with explicit disagreement if you know it CAN’T be that species), and let CID fall where it may.

Think of it like this… a teacher that just goes through your work and changes the answers to the “right answers” without explaining why, is not really teaching you anything. You are likely to continue making the same mistakes.

I am also in favour of changing the wording on the SECOND option to make it clearer that you are choosing explicit disagreement. However, I think the question itself is somewhat vague, in that it is asking about your views on whether the evidence is strong enough to SUPPORT the current CID, when it should be asking if there is evidence to REFUTE the current CID (which would more logically lead to explicit disagreement)


I’ll add here that I think the CID system is great for encouraging people to give it a go (identifying) and consequently is terrific for teaching/learning and engaging activity, but the down side is that many users that apply IDs aren’t going to be around to partake in that dialog. Even if they are regular users, they may not re-visit their past IDs when challenged via alerts of dissenting IDs or comments, or even when tagged.

There is an interesting case in New Zealand with Zoropsidae, where we have a particular one that gets observed often, and in all the guide books and across google searches it is identified as Uliodon albopunctatus but the literature does not support the species level ID. I’ll repeat here my standard comment that I put on these when I see species IDs:

From Paquin et al. (2010) p92
"New Zealand Zoropsidae are badly in need of taxonomic attention. They have been recently transferred from Miturgidae to Zoropsidae by Raven & Stumkat (2003). The three known species are not recognisable based on published descriptions. Another 40 undescribed species are suspected (R.J. Raven, pers. comm.) and may represent several distinct genera. The males of Uliodon albopunctatus and Uliodon cervinus are undescribed."

So really, they should only be ID’d to genus! However, we have Cor Vink who has, I believe, worked with the literature and the family enough to be able to give species level IDs on these, and there has been mention of a revision (yet to be published). Cor Vink is one of the authors on the publication I refer to, so I would be inclined NOT to explicitly disagree with his species level ID!

This example illustrates that while one could make the statement “these can’t be ID’d to species from a photo”, there will be cases where they can, but only by those who have an extensive working knowledge of the taxa/group in terms of literature AND actual specimens.


Another spider example from New Zealand, where we have two species which are difficult to tell apart from a photo, and my standard comment for when I see species IDs:

We have two species of Badumna in NZ, B. longinqua and B. insignis. For a long time I relied on the descriptions in the literature which give:

Forster (1970) describes Ixeuticus martius (since synonymised to B. longinqua) as:
"Abdomen antero-dorsally with an elongated black streak which has a streak of white hairs inside it. Behind and lateral to this streak there are two lines of fine black marks separated by patches of white hairs. These two rows converge posteriorly. Lateral margins grey, spotted with white. Ventrally brown with four longitudinal streaks of white hairs of which the inner pair are the narrower." and "Very thickly clothed with both short and long hairs."

and he describes I. robusta (later synonymised with B. insignis) thus:
"Abdomen uniform greyish black." and "Thickly clothed with relatively strong hairs"

Since finding a B. insignis with the patterned abdomen as described for B. longinqua, I now treat that as an unreliable secondary character. Consequently, my position is to only ID these spiders to genus. It has also been suggested that there is a high probability of other Australian species turning up from time to time, which further strengthens the argument for genus level ID.

You will notice that I don’t explicitly disagree with your ID, but I do hope you will consider this information in forming your own position on these.

Notice here that I explicitly state that I do NOT explicitly disagree! And I find 9 times out of 10 (figuratively) that the species level ID gets amended to a genus level soon after my comment!

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