Improving iNaturalist's Rate of Accurate “Research Grade” Observations by Better Promoting, Explaining, and Improving Visibility of, the “Withdraw” Option

(I am not asking individual users to do anything different, but asking iNaturalist to do something different, so maybe it would have been better in Feature Requests, but I didn’t seem to be able to change the category after the post was here 8 days in “General”.)

iNaturalist has a much higher rate of innacurate “Research Grade” observations than it needs to.

I regularly see people “Agreeing” with an ID subsequent to, and different from, thiers, when they only better trust the subsequent identifier to offer an accurate ID than they had trusted the ID they, themselves, had made to be accurate. These people are not reasonably confidently and independently making that subsequent, same ID that the other person made. This is the cause of much of iNaturalist’s high percentage of innacurate “Research Grade” ID’s. I don’t find that iNaturalist’s instructions make it clear enough that there is an option to just “Withdraw” one’s ID, and when it is best to just “Withdraw” one’s ID. “Agreeing” when a person should just “Withdraw” is most common with our least experienced observers, and identifiers, with the least confidence in their initial identifications of their own observations, or their initial identifications of others’ observations. This leads to an especially high contribution to the rate of innacurate “Research Grade” ID’s as that second agreeing ID came from someone who couldn’t actually, reasonably confidently, and independently, recognize which species they just gave an “agreeing” ID to.

iNaturalist could improve its instructions on when it is appropriate to “Agree”, and that, rather than “Agreeing”, to “Withdraw” is often the appropriate response to an ID subsequent to yours that you trust more than your own ID. This could improve iNaturalist’s percentage of accurate “research grade” observations.

Under iNaturalist’s “Help” we see:
“When should I agree with someone else’s identification?

An identification confirms that you can confidently identify it yourself compared to any possible lookalikes. Please do not simply “Agree” with an ID that someone else has made without confirming that you understand how to identify that taxon. If you agree with the ID without actually knowing the taxon, it may reach Research Grade erroneously.”

These instructions don’t mention the option of “Withdrawing”. We also don’t see the option of withdrawing on the box with our ID until we click on the arrow on the upper right corner of that box.

Instead those instructions could read:

“When should I agree with someone else’s identification?

A second identification that is the same as a previous observation should indicate that you can reasonably confidently, and independently, identify it yourself compared to any possible lookalikes. Please do not simply “Agree” with an ID that someone else has made without confirming that you understand how to identify that taxon. If you only trust that subsequent, and different, ID more than your own, but can’t reasonably confidently, and independently, make that same ID you should “Withdraw”, by clicking on the arrow on the upper right side of the box with your identification, and then clicking on “Withdraw” in that drop-down menu. (Here it may be better to make that “Withdraw” option visible without clicking on an arrow, potentially as the “Agree” and “Compare” options are visible on other people’s ID’s.) This effectively defers to the other ID’er’s expertise, without sending the observation to “Research Grade” when you, who made the second, same, ID couldn’t reasonably confidently, and independently make that second, same ID. That said, if you still think your initial ID is right, you may just want leave your ID up. You don’t want to “Withdraw” simply because someone offered a different ID from yours. Others may come to confirm either ID, or the observation can be left with 2 ID’s of different opinions.”

Under Frequently Asked Questions, might something about “Withdrawing” also be added in the 8th entry under “Observations”:
What is the data quality assessment and how do observations qualify to become “Research Grade”?

Other suiggestions of how to better promote “Withdrawing”, rather than “Agreeing”, when the person “Agreeing” hasn’t independently decided on that “Agreeing” ID are welcome!


One problem is that there is no withdrawal available on phone app. That’s all some have to use.


iNaturalist needs to add the “Withdraw” option to the phone app if they don’t want as many innacurate “research grade” ID’s as they have.


Yes! Please!


Rather than withdraw my ID when someone else comes along and provides a different ID, I often leave mine in place. The overall ID might be sitting at genus or family level which might draw attention from some other knowledgeable person. If that person agrees with the other, then I withdraw my ID. I don’t do this if my initial ID was tentative and I’m dubious it’s correct— I withdraw it when a more credible ID is offered by a reliable person.


Towards the end, I actually suggested that people leave their ID up if they still believe it is probably correct. I only suggested that people withdraw if they think the conflicting other ID is a better bet, but they didn’t know how to make that ID themselves, rather than “Agreeing” with that ID.

I have a student that will agree with every ID I make, even if he doesn’t know how to make that ID. I would rather he “Withdraw” than “Agree” if he just thinks I must be right, but doesn’t know how to make my ID. And if he still thinks his ID is correct, I would rather he just leave his ID up.


I find that my observations at higher IDs are less likely to be identified.

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are you using the iOS app? i see a withdraw option in the Android app which will probably get propagated to the iOS app when the codebases are merged.

there is an existing feature request that covers at least some of what you’re describing here:


Any guesses as to when that might come to be?

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staff will have the best insight into this, but just from an outsider’s perspective, i can see they’re still working on API v2, and they’re still hiring for a React Native developer. if they hire a React Native developer sooner than later, i’d guess an app might be available 6 months after the hire. (so you could speed that process by referring any such developers you know to the job posting.)

otherwise, if API v2 is close to complete when the React Native developer is hired, then it might take a few more months, since they’d probably want to use v2 rather than v1, and there would probably still be a lot of growing pains in v2 to deal with.

these are all just guesses though.


This was a very interesting topic for me. As a 4-year user with nearly 6000 observations, I did not actually know that there was a withdraw feature! Admittedly I don’t spend a lot of time looking at iNat FAQs or instructions because I’m a regular long-time user. I don’t know if the withdraw feature was there when I joined or was added subsequently. However, the fact that an active long-term user doesn’t know it exists does suggest a need for it to be more prominent. I am a desktop-only user.

I typically agree with an ID when it comes from an expert whom I trust, or I wait for subsequent IDs if it’s an unknown user who has made the ID. Or, I do additional work based on the suggested ID using my field guides and online resources to determine whether I actually agree with it.


Are you mainly using via app or browser @scotiaspinner?

It´s maddening to me that the withdraw button is hidden away on the browser and invisible on the iOS. There is no good reason for the former as far as I´m concerned - it just encourages blind agreement and inaccuracy.

Looking forward to the app update at least…but the browser should also be fixed.


@sbushes I only use the browser to access iNat. I didn’t know there was an app for desktop computers. Not sure if I would use that instead of the browser version or not. Since I sit at a desktop for most of the day with many browser tabs open, that is my default platform! But, I did actually withdraw an ID this morning, now that I know!


good to know
the app is just on phones…but the issues are different between the platforms, so just curious about your usage given your history and number of obs.
I don´t think you are alone in not knowing about the feature though - I often come across users with obs in their 1000s who don´t seem to realise withdraw exists. Its certainly not just those new to site

its also very difficult to explain to users who don´t utilise as you have to describe both location and reason for use. I´ve given up trying these days as 9 times out of 10 once I attempt to explain, the user just blind agrees in any case, misunderstanding my comment.

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This is my process as well. I only use iNat via my laptop and the web browser. I began using iNat at least 5 years ago, maybe longer. But I was unaware of various features, including ‘withdraw’. When someone suggested this to me for one observation I had to inquire and then got some help.

Information like this is cryptic/hard to find. For example, the issue of duplicate images. I had no idea how to add multiple images (or rather how NOT to add them). I simply uploaded one at a time but soon I was getting messages about “looks like the same organism”. Yes, it is, that’s my intent. Someone finally pointed out I was not doing it correctly but I had to ask a Moderator “what” is correct/incorrect. At least when this came up a couple years ago, I found nothing about this in an FAQ or “how to” pages. Maybe now there is more help information about this.

Now I have a handful of older duplicate posts. I work more than full time and do volunteer work and it will be a long time before I can go back to delete and repost those.

So my big point is, yes, anything that can be done to highlight and further explain some of these features, would be great.

I do sometimes “agree” but only when I can take what the identifier has suggested, go do my own research, then come back and “agree”.


I agree


This could also be improved if, when changing an ID, some explanation is made as to why. Even a website link. Yes, it takes longer, but it may also help to educate. I try to do that when I change IDs.
There is also the problem of incorrect ID’s on older observations, where the user may not be active.

I may not have made it clear enough, but I am not asking individual iNaturalist users to do anything different. I am asking iNaturalist to change how they explain, and promote, the “Withdraw” option, so that people, who made a shaky initial identification, and don’t know how to make an identification that was subsequently made, don’t click “Agree”, when they only want to defer to others and their ID’s, so that their ID doesn’t stand in the way of the ID’s of others becoming the ID for the observation, and in the way of the ID of others becoming “Research Grade”. If iNaturalist better explains and promotes the “Withdraw” option, more of these people will click “Withdraw” when they just want to pull their initial ID to defer to others, and their ID’s.


:joy: Are you sure? You don’t want to withdraw that? LOL

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INaturalist has said they plan to make a better onboarding experience. I could not say when that might be.