Is there value in confirming a genus when an observation is already Research Grade?

I think people have a fundamental misunderstanding of how the ID system works (and for some it makes sense, because so many people just… don’t ID anything)

Because when you give a genus-level agreement for something at species level, you have the option of forcing it back to genus (can this be IDed from the picture?) and the options are ‘I’m not sure but it’s definitely (higher level ID)’ or ‘No, but its (higher id)’ The first is not a disagreement, the second is and will bump it to the higher classification. But if someone doesn’t ID, they wouldn’t know that XD


It’s generally a good idea. Most RG observations only have maybe two or three ids. Now if you’re the 19th person to add an id [link removed by moderators, as the forum is not a place to call out specific users or negative examples] there’s probably no point.


I do add genus-level confirming IDs for various reasons along the lines that @wildskyflower outlines. I have sometimes run into observers who assume that I’m disagreeing with their more-specific ID, so I typically add the text: “Not disagreeing with finer identifications”.


Just a reminder that the forum is not a place for linking to specific examples in a negative light. Fine to talk in broader terms.

I think some of this is a holdover from how iNat used to work, where ancestor IDs were treated as implicit disagreements, and some older users are unaware that that’s no longer the case.

Also, explicit disagreements are not labeled as such in the current mobile apps, which has caused some flare-ups recently. I asked our devs to include them in the upcoming new mobile app to hopefully prevent some of these misunderstandings.

@challenguate what you’re doing is fine, but I think as @rupertclayton says, it might be good to specify your intent in a comment.


So, I should pick “no” when I know it’s not what it’s been IDed to, but I’m not exactly sure what it is and have to pick a higher level of taxonomy? I always find that wording so confusing.


Basically, yes. (screenshot to make it make sense XD.) Pretend this isn’t my own already RG observation for this example.

So if I sure this wasn’t Actaea racemosa, or if there’s not enough information provided in the picture to separate it from another species in the genus, I would hit the orange (lower) button and it would put it back at genus (after typing in my genus level suggestion, of course.)

If I’m sure its in genus Actaea, but I personally am not confident enough at IDing this group to be confident on a species level ID, I would hit the green button and it would add my genus-level ID without bumping the ID back up to genus level, it would stay listed as Actaea racemosa


And if you hit that hard disagreement button - iNat holds that as disagreement with all subsequent IDs.


There is evidently no systematic soliciting of feedback from users when they delete their accounts. See the staff comment here:


If it’s your own observation, you can do what you like, and there are definitely arguments for why it might make sense to add a non-disagreeing ID that is higher than the community ID but reflects your own level of confidence.

For other people’s observations – my personal general rule of thumb is that I don’t add an ID unless it helps the community ID in some way or adds some informational value. There are lots of cases where I’m not presently skilled enough to assess whether the species is correct. If the observation already has two species IDs, with at least one by a user who has a track record of being reliable, and all I can contribute is a confirmation of the genus (because of my personal lack of knowledge/skill rather than the ID being particularly difficult per se), I don’t really see how this is useful to anyone. If someone in the future has a reason to doubt whether the species is correct, in most cases they are going to be suggesting a specific alternative, so an additional genus ID isn’t necessarily going to matter a lot in such a case. There is no shortage of other observations where my ID would make a difference, so – in general – I find it a better use of my time to focus on these instead.

There are situations where I do add a genus ID to an observation that already has a species ID, but it is typically meant to convey something fairly specific – i.e., that the species ID should be considered critically or there is some difficulty connected with the taxon in question that needs to be taken into account. (For example, there are two species of black carpenter bees in Germany which can only be distinguished from photos under certain circumstances. One species is widespread, the other is established in a certain area in the SW but expanding its range due to climate change. In areas where only the more common species is expected, I typically don’t disagree with an ID for the species it most likely is, but I won’t confirm the ID beyond subgenus.)

So a genus ID is often actually a “soft” disagree. It’s a relatively common practice in some taxa – e.g. many arthropod groups that are difficult or impossible to ID from photos. I try to comment about why I am adding a higher-level ID when I do this, but not all users do. What this means is that a genus ID may be interpreted as questioning the existing species ID (because it is often used to do this), even if this is not your intent.


I do not agree actually… or maybe it is a matter of the specific IDer-bubble one interacts with? In my bubble it just means “I agree to genus but cannot agree to species - for whatever reason”

The reason might be indeed, because other species are hard to exclude or maybe even directly questioning the suggested ID. But very often the reason just is that one is just not comfortable enough in a certain region to exclude the possibility that there are similar species. I use it often like in the latter case and I know several others that do the same… and I know if they gave a genus ID that they can just not go further then this for now


I think that if you intend confirmation at the genus level to convey some particularly idea (such as, that species ID is questionable because we have two similar species here), you should make a comment. Explain what you mean. The genus confirmation could mean anything or nothing more than “I feel like clicking the button.” Use your words.


I do this many times a day, and 99 percent of the time it does mean that I don’t think the species level ID is correct. If I’m not sure it’s not correct, I usually won’t hard disagree.


I will also add genus level IDs using the “green button” when I’m sure it’s in that genus but I can’t confirm the species with the evidence provided nor can I suggest a different one either. If I put a “hard” disagreement on something, I like to be able to suggest an alternative at the same taxonomic level rather than just “bumping it back” to genus. I only use the orange button if I can actually confidently rule out the suggested species and I can give an explanation for why it can’t be that.

My main objective for doing this is usually communicating my doubts or questions about the ID. I typically add a comment explaining my reasoning (as many have already suggested) or a question how the observer/IDers were able to distinguish this from species X, Y or Z. It’s usually because:

  • It’s quite reasonable the ID might be correct but I know there is at least one similar species in the area and the distinguishing features are not showing in the pictures. (They may have been obvious to the observer in the field though.)
  • I’m ID’ing things outside of my usual turf and I’m not sure if there are any similar species in that area that could be confused with the one in the observation.

Sometimes this has actually resulted in someone explaining the features that are visible in the pictures that they used to arrive at their ID and I’ve learned something new again. That’s a good enough reason for me to keep adding the occasional genus level ID with a comment/question.

A more specialized case is a project I’m involved in that aims to pull data in the form of genus level IDs for a research study. Many of the IDs so far have been provided by students or volunteers and are based on CV suggestions. I’ve been going through trying to confirm as many IDs as I can (or disagree if it seems wrong or questionable) as a way of helping with cleaning up the project data. As a result I’m also adding ID’s and “lending my voice” to confirm genus where there just isn’t enough info in the observation to confidently key it out to species since I know in the end it’s genus level that counts for the research project.


… and as a bonus, a notification about this new genus-level ID might entice other identifiers into thinking twice about their previous IDs. Who knows :)


Yes, sometimes that happens and the others push their own ID back as well

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@jasonhernandez74 that is a great question and merits a whole new conversation topic. I often see comments in FaceBook posts, commenting something like’iNaturalist doesn’t work for me’ etc. I think that means that they didn’t recognize that their photography skills and even basic knowledge of biology were insufficient for them to experience success. Other reason is they are not patient enough and want a quick and easy definitive identification in one shot. Either way, the result is they leave INaturalist.


I don’t think it’s detrimental, but personally speaking I do get a bit peeved over it when someone reverts it back to genus after it’s already at Research Grade and doesn’t specify why they’ve brought it back to genus.


I feel that annoyance at that is justifiable - its not hard to write a quick explanation.

tbh usually when I’m forcing stuff back to genus its initial computer vision misidentifications


When a RG observation reverts back to class or higher without any explanation that can be a problem. And there is no iNat requirement for explaining the action. The observer has to contact the reviewer and request an explanation which seems backward to me.


I’ve definitely seen cases where the original poster puts an ID guess based on the CV, someone comes in and agrees with them (another CV ID) and both are just… wildly incorrect. Like not even in the same kingdom correct (Happens with slime mold/fungi confusion sometimes).

I usually try to leave a comment on these but I can’t say I never forget to.