I’m not entirely certain what it is that would change the current situation to something better so I’m open to suggestions, but there is a certain situation that pops up every now and then that does not seem to have a proper solution.
(Also I’m aware that the title is terrible but I couldn’t think of anything else, so if a mod can think of something better then please change it!)
Imagine that I have a sighting of a harvestman (Opiliones), and I’m not certain what species it is. Then a harvestman expert comes along and IDs it as Species A. Fantastic! Personally, I am not knowledgeable enough to confirm the ID as Species A, but I trust that the expert who IDed it is correct, so that is okay. It will stay at ‘Needs ID’ but will be visible for other people if they look up that name, and maybe that means another expert will one day be able to confirm the ID.
Next, somebody comes along and thinks that it is a spider, and they ID it as such. Maybe they are new to arachnology, or maybe they just didn’t look closely at the image, but for whatever reason they have IDed it as a spider and will not respond when asked about their reasoning etc.
Now, here is the issue. I can disagree with the spider ID by identifying it as a harvestman, but no matter how many people add their ID, we need two more experts who can confirm the species ID to get it back listed under the name it had before. Now I could just trust that the expert is right and ID it as Species A myself (and ask someone else to help out too), but it seems disingenuous to do that when I really cannot confirm the ID (and yes, I’m aware that a great many people do do this on iNat). That would also bring it up to Research Grade, which seems even more problematic. I could tick “yes” to “can this ID still be improved”, but there is still the problem that we have at least two people IDing something that they really shouldn’t.
It would be fantastic if there was some way to bring this back to being listed under Species A without having to ID it as that, but I’m really not sure if there is a way to do that. Perhaps some sort of ‘soft agree’? It gets even more complicated when the only taxon I could ID it as encompasses both of the other IDs (e.g. someone else comes along and IDs it as Species B of harvestman, which I know is wrong, but I cannot narrow it down further than simply harvestman by myself)
As you say it seems best not to confirm the species unless you have strong reason to think it’s that, not merely on trust. Except in rare cases like a genetic analysis-based ID where pure trust (might) be acceptable. I think in your example you’d be best to ID it to the correct rank as close to the first expert’s ID as you know. Then call in other users to help, discuss with the spider identifier, or wait. It’s even more difficult to simply wait if it’s stuck at a wrong RG taxon, but I sometimes wait on those too. Often more identifiers do come around, depending on what wildlife group it is.
In this example, you could set your ID to Opiliones and opt out of community ID to ignore the Arachnid ID then opt back in once there are enough votes for the correct family/genus/species. It’s not perfect, but IDs can sit for years at a high level due to disagreements (say moss vs moss campion or bee-mimic fly vs bee).
I agree. To be specific, filter observations by the group e.g. harvestmen and dependably your country and review who are the top identifiers of the group. Then copy and paste some of the top identifier’s names and tag them by commenting to your observation. Hopefully some can come and help. If the person who adds inaccurate ID was doing it deliberately, please do not hesitate to flag them.
I have seen this situation quite commonly - I know what it’s not, but I don’t necessarily know what it is - although generally I find it’s possible to place a critter somewhere, even if it’s just ‘Arthropods’. I’m not sure this needs a technical solution though. Generally people will eventually turn up that will get an ID to genus level at least, and if they don’t, then they can be tagged and will generally respond. That’s my NZ experience at least.
I’ve seen similar things happen, albeit usually at the level of genus (or family) rather than species. In cases like that, I will agree with the i.d. of the expert while making a comment acknowledging them as such and that I’m deferring to their expertise, rather than adding my own.
Thanks for the responses all. I think @sbushes’s suggestions would be the most concise and helpful way of fixing the problem, but of course that would involved some rather deep changes within iNat itself so I guess it is probably not an option for what is really an uncommon issue. Most of the other suggestions are helpful in some cases but there are still cases where there’s nothing that can be done. E.g. I can only reject the community ID if it’s my sighting, or more often simply that there just aren’t many identifiers, especially for difficult taxa and places outside North America and Europe (I am pretty sure there are only two people on iNat who can actually ID Australian harvestman with any accuracy). I guess there is always going to have to be some sort of compromise!
I check for Kingdom Disagreement across Africa every day.
Then I will sometimes agree with known expertise to move the ID in the right direction - or tag in extra help. Follow my notifications, so I can eventually delete my good intentions, but actually don’t know ID, as soon as it no longer serves to tip the balance.
If I can help steer the obs to the right eyes …
Ideally we would have the taxon tree as displayed for Community ID with the option to either Agree, or DISAgree at the relevant taxon level. At the bottom of the sea I know it is NOT Stoebe, but no idea even if it is plant animal other. Forced to spell out my agree / disagree in a comment.
To get this observation back where it should be, do you know or know of anyone who’s not on iNaturalist but can identify these organisms? Contact that person. Send a link to the observation and ask what the person thinks. If he supports the identification, you can make an identification, saying something like, “So-and-so saw this and says he thinks it’s this.” Best case: You persuade the person to join iNaturalist, a win for everyone.
Maybe dropping the order of IDs from influencing the community ID. The name you place in an ID is just that, the best name you can provide. No more boxes popping up asking you how your ID relates to a previous more specific ID.
Opiliones, Harvestman Species A, Spider, Opiliones: would be listed as Harvestman Species A - Need ID.
I don’t confirm genera (or families, order, etc) that I know if it’s already to species because of all the confusion that follows. I also have a leaf miner ID caught up in this algorithm.
I certainly agree the design and use of the disagreement prompts are problematic. Especially in Needs ID observations we have trapped at higher levels.
But in the sequence you mention… whether the final Opiliones ID was an ancestor disagreement or not, the community ID would still not go to species.
It doesn’t even matter how many supporting votes it gets higher up. The spider ID blocks it…
Even with 9 Harvestmen IDs, it could still have the community ID of Opiliones:
9 x Opiliones
1 x spider
1 x Phalangioidea
1 x spider
1 x Leiobuninae
1 x spider
1 x Leiobunum
1 x spider
1 x Leiobunum species A
1 x spider
I guess it depends on what you mean by the word deep… but I’m not convinced it would be that complex. As discussed on the other thread, disregarding maverick IDs as disagreements would be one way to fix the problem.