This is a real issue.
But it is not just one of “preservation” but also of usability.
So iSpot still exists as a ciitizen science tool, but it has been so degraded by sloppy updates and lack of interested programmers. It is unusable.
In South Africa, our virtual museums funding stops this year. Millions of records will be archived and available only to researchers, unless local enthusiasts find the funds to save them. We are toying with bringing some of it across to iNaturalist, as one possible option (if the users buy in to this and agree, but many use the sites because of features they dont like about iNaturalist). But our (the southern African community) participation on iNat is on condition that if iNat folds, it will hand over all our southern Africa data (pictures, observations and IDs) and the software to run it, to the South African National Biodiversity Institute to keep a local version going.
This is a real issue.
[Edit, answered some of the questions I posed.]
If I’m reading it right there were 1.3M observations in around the first week of May, that’s a lot of data to handle for backup. And a lot of cost.
Relevant info that’s not mentioned is the licensing of the data, I was assuming it was something like OPL that Wikipedia use, but can’t see that info?
- the only terms I see are in the T&C saying “no commercial use of the website”. There’s API details at https://api.inaturalist.org/v1/docs/.
Another relevant bit of info is the accounts for the project, are they open?
Further who in particular controls the project, can it be sold as a commercial asset and locked away? That’s as big a risk as it being left to rot IMO.
- Whilst not entirely clear about control, the people involved directly are given https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/about.
Is the website and app open source (allowing a community to continue the project more easily)?
- The website and apps do appear to be open source, under the MIT license, https://github.com/inaturalist.
Finally, how much data is there currently from the project; are people free to acquire it (at minimal cost, ie bandwidth cost, or the cost of actually administrating the copying) can it be torrented, for example?
- You can download some of the data from https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/export, not sure if it’s all the db data for each observation though.