Leading subspecies IDs should change the obs taxon like leading IDs of other ranks

I was directed to continue this conversation here (I started a separate thread, not knowing there was one already for this issue: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/identifications-that-include-a-subspecies-ignored-in-observation-id/8926)

I think this could be solved computationally without being overly complicated:

  1. If the designation “research grade” is restricted to the species level as the lowest possible taxonomic level the subspecies could simply be ignored when calculating whether an observation is research grade or not. In the definition of terms it would have to be made clear that the designation “research grade” is only applicable to the species level (or higher), and that any subspecies identifications are an independent, additional piece of information.

  2. The community ID at the subspecies level can then be computed independent from research level calculations. It can still be done based on the same rules but it would be independent, and it would only take place when the observation ID has reached the species level (regardless of research grade or not). A subspecies ID can then be added to the observation ID unless it is contradicted by one third or more of subspecies IDs that apply to this species (subspecies IDs pertaining to other species can be ignored if there are any in the previous determination history).

In a nutshell: subspecies calculations are kept separate and research grade is a designation that applies to the species level as the lowest possible taxonomic rank. I think this approach is logically sound. I am not a computer programmer but I don’t think this would be complicated to implement or draw excessive resources to calculate.



To add my little two cents worth. As explained above, subspecies ids should change the obs taxon like taxons of higher ranks. To explain the issue going about, as I explained here.

If someone submits a obs with the id Class Aves or birds and I submit a Red-shafted Flicker (Colaptes auratus cafer) id, the obs will remain at class level. If I were instead to submit a species id or in this case, just simply Northern Flicker, the community id will be lowered to species level. And it’s my personal belief finding a flicker obs in the “Identify” page is easier than searching for simply “bird”. Those obs may fall in-between the cracks because subspecific ids do not lead.

I can see how this having status quo can help prevent subspecific ids for sole fact of subspecific ids. If we change the current implement, if an observer submits a species and I submit the subspecies, it would become RG at subspecies level without a supporting id. I see two solutions to this, one let subspecies ids lead only if the original id is genus level or higher, or after a subspecies id, the obs goes back to “Needs ID” in order to get supporting subspecific id.

And if subspecies cannot lead, why can a subspecific obs reach RG without a supporting id? Ever since March 2019, if an observer submits a subspecific id and an identifier puts a species id, like every other possible disagreement id you have to decide whether you disagree or not. Here’s the results of those choices.

I don’t know but I’m sure it’s (species taxon) – RG as the subspecies
No, but it’s a member of (species taxon) – RG as the species

Contrary to a species-genus id.

I don’t know but I’m sure it’s (genus taxon) – Needs ID at species level
No, but it’s a member of (genus taxon) – Needs ID at genus level

So I personally believe that we need to decide sooner than later whether or not subspecies ids get the same attributes and characteristics as other ranks or none at all.

No, this could never happen, even if you change it. 2/3+ concensus is a requirement for RG.

No. The first choice here does NOT give RG as subspecies. It gives RG at species with a Display ID of subspecies:

The second option in both cases is an Explicit Disagreement, and effectively nullifies or forces the other ID to be treated at the agreement level (species for the first, genus for the second) as far as calculating CID is concerned. They are the iNat equivalent of being able to vote in an election and also claim that the person who voted before you is an idiot for voting for someone else, and that that vote should be disqualified. [Apologies for expressing my own personal dissatisfaction over how explicit disagreements are handled!]

Another requirement for RG is that the CID must be finer than genus (ie sub-genus or better) OR be at genus and have “ID is as good as it can be” set in the DQA. The reason the second example goes to Needs ID is because the CID becomes genus, so doesn’t meet this OTHER requirement! You can test this out by setting “ID is as good as it can be” for the second example, and it will become RG at genus.

To be a “double standard” it would have to be a difference of how two otherwise equal things are treated. Subspecies as a taxonomic level is not the same as species or genus… every taxonomic level has it’s own set of “rules” that relate to it. A double standard would be having the same taxonomic level treated differently under animals vs under plants, for example. If you consider “taxonomic levels” to be equal things, then it’s a double standard to say two species level IDs = RG when two family level IDs can never be RG. The RG label is all about the differences between the taxonomic levels!

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Well… that kind of depends how you look at it. Here’s an older example that’s had time to export to GBIF:

The Observation Taxon [what you’re calling Display ID] is at subspecies (with the RG banner next to it), while the Community Taxon is at species only. If I understand you correctly, you’re saying this observation is research grade for Sciurus niger only, not the subspecies. However, it’s been exported to GBIF at the subspecies level:

And if you search for research grade observations at subspecies or lower, there it is:

And looking at its score, though species level is highlighted in gray, the subspecies level is given the same score of 1.

So there might be some sense in saying it’s only research grade at species, but I would argue there are lots of ways in which it’s being treated as if it’s research grade at subspecies with only a single subspecies ID.


The “two 1s” show that there are 1 ID at each level, the next column is the cumulative, and it clearly shows 2 at the species level but only 1 at subspecies.

However, that is the only fault I can see in what you are showing here. To me it is clearly exporting and treating the Display ID as if it were the CID!

[edit] Actually, in the search box it doesn’t state it is searching on CID or Display ID, and it would make sense to search on Display ID…

@tiwane @kueda @loarie @carrieseltzer Is Display ID meant to be used in these cases that Jane brings up? I would have thought CID should be used…

Yeah, it’s been this way since Jan 2018. See also https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/search-by-observation-taxon-or-community-taxon/3620

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@birdwhisperer It would seem (going by @bouteloua’s and @jwidness’s comments and links) that this is going to be addressed in the explore revamp, it might be best to wait see what comes of that.

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I see where you’re getting at, but as far as I see it’s still RG at subspecies because that’s the display taxon and it will show up on that subspecies map, despite the community id.


@tiwane I appreciate this is a mess, and will hopefully be sorted out in the explore revamp… but in the interim, can we have a clarification as to what the label “RG” applies to? Specifically, is it RG at the CID or RG at the Display ID?

Here’s what I don’t understand:

  • I ID something as plants. The next person IDs as a subspecies. ID remains “plants” unless I withdraw my ID, at which point the subspecies takes over.

  • I ID something as a species. The next person IDs as a subspecies. ID becomes subspecies.

Can someone explain the logic of this?


RG is determined by the community ID, as described here: https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/help#quality

The map on the taxon page doesn’t show only RG observations, it shows mappable observations. I believe this issue is why that observation shows up on the taxon page map.


see https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/species-id-not-changing-appropriately/13595

This seems very strange. Shouldn’t iNat be sharing community IDs of RG observations, since that is what earned research grade? Or is this a choice GBIF has made? If the observation ID were truly just a “display ID,” then I would see no problem letting subspecies IDs change the observation ID like any other rank. But since it’s important, I agree with the early posters here that ideally subspecies IDs should alter the obs ID as though they are species-level IDs until they match the community ID. (However, I appreciate that it’s clearly not as easy to implement as it is to suggest).

The ID included in data exports is the Observation Taxon rather than the Community Taxon. See more issues/feature request here: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/search-by-observation-taxon-or-community-taxon/3620

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It would be highly useful to give the necessary importance to the identification of subspecies, many of them are rare and/or endemics and often some are put to the species rank.
Unfortunately, often superficial or unexperienced users do not confirm the leading subspecies identification making the search for such observations impossible.
So for me, thumbs up to make leading subspecis ID change the taxon name of the observation.


(Right - they shouldn’t confirm the ID unless they have personal knowledge on how to identify the subspecies.)


It is always better to look at the moon and not at the finger.
The problem is not that there are “superficial or unexperienced users”, there will always be such users. The “problem” is that subspecies are not shown in the thread title if not confirmed by anyone.


Dear Administrators, i just found this essential discussion, but won’t take time to read all comments and argumentations.
It is surely a problem that IDs at infraspecific level are not leading at least to actual ID of species, as that way many obss. stay hidden from other users at genus level.
I waited a while, expecting this feature or bug will soon be solved, but nothing happened.
Presented IDs at species level are necessary for the use of many observations.
2 examples: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/57594301 and https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/57599233

Both will stay hidden for me, i could not find and add ID of species or subsp., what makes no sense at all. In especial i am watching and IDing obss. of Equsetum hyemale and related species which are host to a highly specialized, host bound genus of ascomycetes. This is part and preparation of a project concerning the genus https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/366203-Stamnaria
Due to this ignoring of subspecies IDs in concern of actual IDs, i won’t find many obss. which were IDed as E. hyemale ssp. affine or E. ramosissimum ssp. ramosissimum. Some of these might be infected by Stamnaria, but i needed to search amongst all horsetails IDed at genus level.

Please do care for changing this failous feature in order to improved scientific use of iNat.

With thanks in advance and best regards


It sounds like a search with ident_taxon_id may work for your needs. For example:


Thanks a lot @jwidness Jane, it seems to work in general. I didn’t use this kind of search before, however it does not alter the basic failure to ignore single Ids of subspecies level.
And i don’t know of any sound reason to keep on this kind of “deliberate bug” as i liked to name it. As mentioned before, by me and likely some other colleagues: Way too many worthy obss. will stay hidden, may not be of further use by that.