How to credit identifiers/observers in research papers

We talk quite a bit about the massive amount of scientific data that is available on here, and I was wondering what is the proper way to credit the identifiers in research papers that are planning to use iNat data? Unless the researcher is going to make an account and become a top identifier, they will be depending on us to vet and verify the data coming in. So how would you credit all of the people curating the ID’s?

One reason I ask, is a friend and I recently were talking about writing something using iNat data, and wasn’t sure how to go about that.


Interesting discussion here…


Likely the easiest (and in my opinion, best) way to do this is to access the data via a GBIF download. GBIF will give a doi which can be cited, and make the dataset used trackable, which will include the usernames of contributing iNat users.

In addition, it would be good to acknowledge iNat users more generally in an acknowledgements section of a paper, I think. If the paper is based on one or a few observations, it is probably worth mentioning each user individually. Depending on the paper/contribution, inviting a user to be a coauthor could also be warranted. I’ve done this for several notes published using iNat observations.


I try to credit both significant identifiers and significant observers who contributed to the data set, using real name if provided in their profile, otherwise using iNat username. A couple of recent examples here (acknowledgments near end - authors also iNat users) and here (acknowledgments on first page).


If it were a taxon I’ve spent time on, I’d love a free copy of the paper and direct thank you from the authors


Thanks, that gives me some considerations.

I tend to think of iNat observations as somewhat equivalent to museum records. How would you credit the collector or identifier of a regular museum record? In many cases probably not at all, which is a shame. I think on iNat it’s a bit easier to want to do something for the observer/identifier, because you can see their profile and everything. If I observed something interesting that someone wanted to write a paper on, I’d love to be involved (if they wanted me!) or at least acknowledged and notified, but I would also probably feel the same about any museum specimens I lodged! I’m not sure where I’m going with this thought, but you could always just go all in and make them all coauthors! :joy:


Different users may have different preferences. If you’re looking at using a few observations, it’s a good idea to reach out to the observer/ identifiers and ask. Someone who already has a corpus of work, especially on that taxon, may prefer you use their full names, titles, academic affiliations. Others may prefer to use only their anonymized iNat handle. Reach out in DMs and ask.


How to credit a work/information/data is a recurrent issue that may change with time. Some work has been made to be sure that there is no question of research integrity in citation/acknolewdgement and specific approach may be warranted for participative/citizen science. This discussion raises difefrent points about: what is a credit, what is a right citation, how to manage many observers in citation and, not the least, how to involve in publication,/research works the citizen observers that have a “significant” input on the subject. For some time, it was usual to consider that public data could be used without any concern on the wish of the observer. Some analysts call this extractive science more than participative science. In some iNaturalist project (i.e Abiome), ethics of use of data collected by observers is at the center of the project and no use will be made by others without explicit and univequocal information, therefore infomed consent. Traditional iNaturalist projects (i.e Abiome) are therefore helpful as you need to voluntarily link each record with such project, understandibly with your agreement. This aproach may improve the too high turn-over of participants noticed in some participative science projects that feel not to be well considered.
You may find more information in the CRedit statement: CRediT (Contributor Roles Taxonomy) was introduced with the intention of recognizing individual author contributions, reducing authorship disputes and facilitating collaboration.
For authorship and citation, different charters/statements on research ethics or integrity may be read. There is one dedicated to participative science (ALLIS) but it is in French

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Well, this is not exactly true. If you cite a museum specimen, you cite a collector, too. In some, rarer cases (discussion mostly) you cite also an identifier(s). Correct citing of individual records from iNat still has to be worked out.

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And in some cases, it’s not so much grabbing a small handful of records, but looking at a larger range. If someone was going to write a paper looking at Bombus in IL for example, what can I claim as the guy who ID’d 2/3rds of the observations they’re going to be using, since my ID’s are framing the dataset. Unless of course one of the writers wanted to jump in and put several thousand ID’s down.

I don’t think that identifiers can “claim” anything in this case. We’ve made our IDs voluntarily and for our own reasons. They are part of the public record on iNat.

Many users of iNat data won’t even interact with iNaturalist at all - they’ll just get a download from GBIF of aggregated data and use it (not that I recommend that…). In this way, iNat data would be treated similarly to other data from natural history collections that are aggregated by GBIF. When those data are downloaded/used in bulk, they often lack any indication of who specifically identified specimens (though they should generally have collector data). The collection itself may not know who identified them!

Best practice for scientific papers is to acknowledge the specific collections and ideally publish a list of specific specimens used from each, so that the data is traceable/transparent. But, unfortunately IDing isn’t like Indiana Jones - there’s no real fortune and glory, kid.

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It is even conceivable that they may ask you to use both.


Maybe we should put this up as a request. I would like to see individual records being citable


I and another iNat user were credited in one paper :-)


The first example paper that I linked in my earlier post above includes a citation of an individual iNaturalist record in the Literature Cited section (see Echols 2022 therein).


Just posting the reference here for easy viewing by more people

Echols, A. 2022. iNaturalist observation of Lasiopogon from San Timoteo Canyon, Redlands,
California. Accessed 16 March 2022.

second example

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: For their contributions to this version of the checklist we are especially grateful to
James Bailey, Teague Embrey, Henrik Kibak, C. Yasuda, sea-kangaroo, and the community of observers and experts at (here abbreviated iNat), and to
Arnold Tiehm, Curator, and the volunteer crew at the University of Nevada herbarium (RENO).

Thanks @jdmore good precedent to follow


Nice example!

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