iNat priorities - science or social?

Hey Jim, in this interview with Tony, he is noted as saying that iNaturalist is “both a social network for those interested in nature, and also a platform for community science.” That is where I got the information. On this page, it clearly says that iNaturalist is “an online social network of people sharing biodiversity information to help each other learn about nature.”

To summarize, iNaturalist is made for anyone who likes learning about biology, and while some resources are used in places like GBIF, it is still a social platform at it’s core and should be seen as such.

Edit: The emphasis is still on science, so you shouldn’t take anything lightly. I’d also like to mention that this is something that you could have asked me in dms, as it has to do with a specific statement of mine.

Edit 2: Edited for clarity


It’s a social platform for citizen science, science aspects don’t come first, but not the last, I think you came little bit too defensive on that observation comments’, in cases like this and overall, if you want to prove your point in id agression in most cases will only lead to others not accepting your point of view, as we’re communicating by chat it’s often impossible to fully understand the person. Author and others said it’s a continuing bird with more photos proving their id and somewhere in recommendations it’s said observer saw more than we can and can know more than a photo shows. Correct ids is what we’re working on, but as it’s a platform for everyone all kinds of things happen, aim of iNat is to connect people with nature. For you I’d recommend switching out on another topic for some time and then come back to that discussion.


Uhm, you did NOT supply that quote. To repeat, here is the quote you supplied: “This isn’t a scientific forum, it’s a social network, as is stated by iNaturalist and Tony Iwane himself.”

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Apologies, I mistyped. I meant that that is where Tony said the information. My argument still stands, however.

@bouteloua is the person who originally linked me that page, after I had a similar misunderstanding with a user. She can probably provide more insight to the situation.

welcome to the forum @jimsinclair. i very much appreciate all your identifications. whatever happened in that one observation, please don’t let one bad experience discourage you from participating in the community. the community and science are both better with your contributions.


I believe this is the most famous quote regarding this subject, written here by the founder of iNaturalist. I apologize that the formatting of the quote isn’t quite right (formatting isn’t my strong suit) but do click the link above to see the original comment.

iNaturalist is a platform for helping to connect people to nature first, and a database second. If iNat caused these people to slow down for a second and pay attention to a non-human organism when they might not have otherwise, then these observations have value. If the observation serves as a reason for helpful, more experienced naturalists to invite the person to take clearer, better-focused pictures in the future, then the observations have value. If receiving that kind of feedback causes the person to look out for the same organism in the future, thereby developing a relationship with a non-human species, then the observation has value.

Do these kinds of positive outcomes happen with every blurry pic of a potted plant? No, but we should always remember that they can. I feel the same frustration with these kinds of contributions, but there’s always more going on than what we can discern from evidence left on the Internet.

And again, the data iNat produces is a byproduct. If it’s messy but people are outside looking at stuff, then the system is fulfilling its purpose. For those of us who care about the utility of the data, we have tools for assessing the data quality of each record, and they handle most situations like the one you describe.

That being said, how you interpret this quote and what it means for your site experience is up to you. I echo @pisum’s thought: if one argument sours your views on iNaturalist as a whole, that would be unfortunate and you’d be missed.


I haven’t actually seen this before, thanks!

Here is another

“If we connect people to nature without contributing to any specific scientific outcomes or quantifiable conservation results, then we’re still doing our job,” says Ueda. “But if we just contribute to science without helping people care about the natural world, we’ll be on the wrong track.”

edit: I’m not trying to “take a side” in this argument per se, but the original poster did ask for staff statements regarding iNaturalist’s purpose, so I am doing my best to provide some relevant ones.


It seems to me that social priorities are not synonymous with scientific inaccuracy. And to justify the second by means of the first is a wrong way.


I don’t see why it was “cringe.” I think you are taking it out of context. I was simply trying to resolve an escalated situation. Your comment here isn’t helping anyone. I will refrain from responding to any more aggressive comments here.

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Well said.

Calling names is what we definitely don’t need on iNat, nothing cringy in anyone’s comment there.

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I’ve thinked in the same way. Whether iNaturalist founders like it or not scientific institutions such as California Academy of Sciences and Mexican CONABIO are backing up and providing funding for this platform. It is already a scientific endeavor.

iNat is going that way all around, e.g. we don’t go reid every Taraxacum officinale, because it’s not clear even for science, but we give up accuracy for needs of regular users, it doesn’t mean it’s ok to have nonsense RG observations, but it does mean it’s never gonna be 100% scientifically correct.

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