Metadata for iNaturalist

Does iNat have Metadata for the site?
For instance, I would like to know exactly how

  • iNat assigns “Similar Species” in the Taxon Page.
    (is this all identifications at that rank that are no longer the current ID. Does withdrawing an ID remove it from the “Similar Species” taxa, etc.).
  • Similarly: what is meant on any particular page by “species”. Yes there are some summaries (on the forums or bloggs or somewhere) about how different pages summarize species differently, but where can I easily find out exactly how a particular page calculates “species” when I am on that page.
  • It took me a long time to figure out that iNat calculates identifications as identifications by a user, including maverick IDs, but excluding identifications of ones own observations.

Ideally I should like to access the metadata for a specific page from the page itself.

The (?) boxes are very useful when they exist. (e.g. for charts in the Species Page and the “whats this” on the community ID on an observation), but should metadata not be standard and available for all pages where summaries and calculations are made?


Since iNaturalist is mostly open source, you can usually find this type of information on Github, but it requires parsing through the code.

I agree the little “more info” buttons that pop-up detailed information on particular objects are helpful, and increased layperson documentation of different commonly referenced metrics would be super appreciated.

From the post, it seems that rather than metadata, you’re asking for better documentation? (I agree that’s important, and that a lot of things could be documented much better on the site itself, but if that’s the case we should probably make it clear in the title :) )

Yes, in databasing, the documentation of the tables and fields is called “metadata.”
I note on this forum it is often used for exif information, which is one type of metadata. So just like a photograph can have more information about how it was taken and where and when, so a database table, web page (or portion of, or collection of) or a display field can have information which explains how it was compiled, what the values in each field mean, what filters were used and how the summaries are done, etc.
Note that this also includes special data imbedded in web pages for search engines and functionality that most users would never be aware of

So strictly, the correct term for “documentation” of the site is ‘metadata’.
And so we have international standards: e.g.

  • geospatial metadata standard
  • Dublin Core Metadata Element Set

I guess the real difference between documentation and metadata, is that documentation is just an “about page” whereas metadata orders, categorizes and structures the documentation for efficient access, interpretation and analysis.

I see :) Ok then - I know about metadata (I study library science) but I hadn’t heard it used before for “what values mean”, just for your other examples.

I don’t think this is what you’re asking, but I think it’s helpful based on the post title: most of iNaturalist metadata for the data products ends up Darwin Core and it ends up in GBIF

Darwin Core
GBIF iNat Landing Page

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