Hi, I’m working in a Natural History Museum and we recently started to use iNat in the framework of our Citizen Science activities. We experimented it for our bioblitz this year and for a couple of simple projects. I found it well done and very user-friendly. Nevertheless, in my opinion some aspects might be improved/implemented for a “professional use”.
My basic question is: is it foreseeable to develop a specific version (features) of the platform dedicated to fulfill the needs of more skilled users, e.g. operators of a scientific museum or a research centre?
At the moment virtually anyone can start in any moment a new iNat project, taking advantage from the facilities provided, from the lively community help, and from the id help given by the AI features. This is really outstanding, interesting and stimulating. But why do not allow institutions to play a role in the larger community, with a different level of engagement/importance?
We know very well that some taxa are hardly identifiable from a photo, and some species (especially those very similar to their domestic forms) can be correctly identifiable only by a bunch of experts. In some cases a value in a ranking scale will be more realistic than a “yes or not” based on the pictures provided. But why don’t allow people to contribute anyway? In this cases iNat could work as a collector of information, and the verification process could be mainly done by specialists. That will slow down the id process for these (limited number of) taxa, but in the end the percentage of misidentification will be dropped down to (almost) zero.
A similar problem can be encountered in the case of experts that, during a bioblitz, identify specimens on the field that have been not photographed, for different reasons (e.g. a passing-by bird). Loosing those high quality data is really a pity. In both cases specialist recognized by a research centre or museum should be allowed to set the research grade for an observation (either for species difficult to id from a photo or with no photo, but directly observed by the specialist). Another case is that of institutional databases of occurrencies with no photos, but whose observations were verified by specialists. These data - according to the current roles - couldn’t never reach the research grade, cause there are no pictures associated with the entries.
This is just to provide some examples. My dream is to use an open source – iNat based – solution developed for all those cases where professionals (or experienced citizen citizen scientists trained by professionals) are producing good data to be shared and included in the global iNat database, with specific metadata attached.
The other side of the coin is that observations that today are misidentified in iNat, but flagged with the “research grade” label, could be revised and downgraded or simply flagged with a different flag (impossible to be determined from the photo, or something like that).
I’ll be looking forward for reactions. Available to provide further details.