This idea was brought up in a different forum post by @dan_johnson, but I think it’s important enough to deserve its own discussion. This would potentially provide an enormous improvement to how identifications are made on iNaturalist and further support the role “experts” play on here.
The request: allow the identifications of users to be flagged, such that a flagged ID does not count towards the community ID.
This would immediately solve the issue of a single bad ID torpedoing the community ID and do away with the need to tag multiple users to clean up such observations. This is particularly important for taxa that don’t see a lot of engagement on here, where there might not be multiple people to come fix things (like, say, the groups I tend to work on).
Of course, this needs to be something that can be counteracted, so that the system isn’t abused. We don’t want well-meaning individuals or inexperienced users flagging good IDs. The way this can be done is to also allow flagging in the affirmative, as well as the negative. In the current iteration, I get a notification when someone adds a dissenting ID… the same could be done when someone flags an ID. That way, if the user disagrees with that flag, they could just vote against it via a little check box, just like with the various quality control checkboxes that lurk at the bottom of the observations.
I’d also suggest adding specific fields to provide detail as to why the ID is being flagged. Examples:
- This taxon is not reliably identified from photos.
- This observation does not provide enough detail for the ID.
- This observation is outside the known geographic range of this taxon.
- This observation is not in the correct habitat for this taxon.
- This taxon is ambiguous or controversial.
That option for “ambiguous or controversial” taxa covers instances where a taxon is unrevised or full of widely misused synonyms, nomen nuda, nomen dubia, etc.
I think this provides a good compromise between encouraging the efforts of “experts”, while not overtly stifling the importance of community engagement. Most of the observations that would benefit from this are those that are taxonomically stuck due to inattention from the users. This is especially true for older observations. This problem will only grow as this site ages and more users permanently disappear. There needs to be a better solution than “tag more users”, and I think this is it.
I’m curious to hear what others think. Cheers.