Literature specifically evaluating the usefulness of iNat data in science?

We have a couple of very useful and large wikis dedicated to scientific literature that uses iNat data. I would appreciate references, more specifically, to scientific literature that directly discusses what iNat data can and cannot be used for, or what its strengths and weaknesses are. Is anyone aware of papers of this kind, please? I think we all have a general sense of what the limits are, what one needs to be careful of, where this collective dataset shines, but I’d like to see what has been published on the subject. Thank you.


I’m not aware of anything that specifically addresses this, but there may be papers that mention it in passing as they used some data for the research.


Come back in six months when my latest paper is (hopefully) accepted ;)


Great question - I’d also be interested to know. I’ve spent so much time with iNaturalist in the past year or two and it’s been so much fun but as an aspiring ecologist, I would like to know how far it stretches into the ‘citizen science’ realm from beyond merely a sort of social media where people share observations of nature. Knowing how the data aids (or does not aid) science could potentially prompt new iNaturalist features that help the site be more useful, or at least teach ‘dedicated’ iNat users how they can have a bigger impact through their contributions.


there are many papers that extensively use iNat data, including very large datasets, in increasingly sophisticated analyses

have a flick through and


I have used data from iNaturalist for many papers and I point out the usefulness. For example, in a paper on the carpenter ant Camponotus planatus I wrote: “Many useful records of C. planatus came from photographs posted on-line on Bugguide, iNaturalist, and Flickr, including six of the nine northernmost records of C. planatus in Texas and four of the eight northernmost records of C. planatus in Florida, demonstrating the value of these outlets for “citizen scientists.” Photos are particularly useful sources of site records in areas where specimen collection is severely restricted, e.g., in Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park in southern Florida.”


We just had a paper just published in Ecological Informatics that is along these lines, but just focuses on how to assess when identifications in iNaturalist are reliable. That’s the first step for using the data to answer science questions. PhD student Julie Mugford is the lead author. See


I have been doing some background research into this very thing recently and here are some of the papers that I have collected. This certainly isn’t an exhaustive account but may be useful. They are in no particular order.

Callaghan CT, Poore AGB, Major RE, Rowley JJL, Cornwell WK. 2019. Optimizing future biodiversity sampling by citizen scientists. Proc. R. Soc. B 286: 20191487.

Peter, M, Diekötter, T, Höffler, T, Kremer, K. Biodiversity citizen science: Outcomes for the participating citizens. People Nat . 2021; 3: 294– 311.

Tomas J. Bird, Amanda E. Bates, Jonathan S. Lefcheck, Nicole A. Hill, Russell J. Thomson, Graham J. Edgar, Rick D. Stuart-Smith, Simon Wotherspoon, Martin Krkosek, Jemina F. Stuart-Smith, Gretta T. Pecl, Neville Barrett, Stewart Frusher. Statistical solutions for error and bias in global citizen science datasets, Biological Conservation, Volume 173, 2014, Pages 144-154, ISSN 0006-3207,

Janis L. Dickinson, Benjamin Zuckerberg, David N. Bonter. 2010. Citizen Science as an Ecological Research Tool: Challenges and Benefits ( Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 2010 41:1, 149-172

Christopher R. Hardy, Nazli W. Hardy; Adapting Traditional Field Activities in Natural History Education to an Emerging Paradigm in Biodiversity Informatics. The American Biology Teacher 1 September 2018; 80 (7): 501–519. doi:

E.J. Theobald, A.K. Ettinger, H.K. Burgess, L.B. DeBey, N.R. Schmidt, H.E. Froehlich, C. Wagner, J. HilleRisLambers, J. Tewksbury, M.A. Harsch, J.K. Parrish. Global change and local solutions: Tapping the unrealized potential of citizen science for biodiversity research. Biological Conservation, Volume 181, 2015, Pages 236-244, ISSN 0006-3207.

Tabea Turrini, Daniel Dörler, Anett Richter, Florian Heigl, Aletta Bonn. The threefold potential of environmental citizen science - Generating knowledge, creating learning opportunities and enabling civic participation. Biological Conservation, Volume 225, 2018, Pages 176-186, ISSN 0006-3207.

La Salle John, Williams Kristen J. and Moritz Craig. 2016. Biodiversity analysis in the digital era. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B3712015033720150337.

König, Christian & Weigelt, Patrick & Schrader, Julian & Taylor, Amanda & Kattge, Jens & Kreft, Holger. (2019). Biodiversity data integration—the significance of data resolution and domain. PLoS Biology. 17. e3000183. 10.1371/journal.pbio.3000183.

Isaac, N.J.B., van Strien, A.J., August, T.A., de Zeeuw, M.P. and Roy, D.B. (2014), Statistics for citizen science: extracting signals of change from noisy ecological data. Methods Ecol Evol, 5: 1052-1060.


This topic was automatically closed 60 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.