Pictures uploaded from scientific papers

I wonder if iNat could include pictures taken from published papers, notably scientific, peer-reviewed papers, but also newspapers when relevant. They should be flagged and perhaps their format should be different : two IDs provided from the start, the original, and that suggested by the “uploader” (which can be the same).
Of course copright should be acknowledged. Is copyright the only difficulty to move on in this direction ? Is it insurmountable ? Thank you.

One additional note : I suppose that this must have been discussed in the beginnings of iNat, but I could not find anything in the forum by the iNat search engine. Perhaps the question needs to be updated ; perhaps there is a thread/topic that I have missed.
I just think that the question is quite important to scale up iNat coverage of distribution and diversity of species.
Thank you for your help.

If the photos are yours, used by you in a scientific paper - you can do it if the copyright conditions set by the journal allow that. Again, if the photos in a newspaper are yours, it will depend upon the copyright conditions set by the newspaper. If the photos are not yours - no way. That would be major breach of copyright issues.


OK thank you.
Then how to connect iNat data with published literature efficiently ?
Or with other informatics databases either bibliographical or very equivalent to iNat ?

Of course, there are huge numbers of papers, but the type of connections may help selecting : pictures would have helped pinpoint what each paper aimed to highlight ; if not pictures as such, references/links to those pictures would be helpful !

And there are quite many other databases (mostly local I would say) that could deserve being connected to iNat.

This could help addressing the issue that iNat still is quite approximate, heterogeneous and sometimes lacks data on quite critical taxa or shows critically incomplete coverage of geographical distributions even in areas with intensive widespread naturalist activity like Europe.

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The idea might be a format of “observations” specific to references or to connections to other databases meant to lead to the most relevant features. Currently this kind of information can be found in commentaries discussing single iNat observations, but they are difficult to retrieve systematically so that one will not even think of them without running into that specific observation by chance.

They should be easily accessible and connected to any given taxon from the very start, for instance as an additional “parameter” in the “root” web page of that taxon, for instance by calling them “pictures from other sources” or “data from other sources”…

Does this make sense ?

For a related discussion see Published papers that use iNaturalist data - wiki

I understand the principle you are asking, but this is mainly for curators and iNat staff to answer. As to the “easily accessible”, well, when it concerns scientific publications, most of them are not. There are plenty of copyright and access barriers to reach them. As to the connections to the databases and specific references, it would be best if the iNat projects all had journals or other type of information sections where relevant publications, keys, internet sites or open databases were listed. It had always amazed me when projects are created and left totally bare inthe sense of relevant information for the users.

I think this is slightly different.This thread is about the information aimed to improve iNaturalist data quality,but not how to use iNat data or where it is used.

I am not sure that projects are the right place to address my questions. The questions I have in mind are more basic than I would expect from a iNat project. I agree that a “bibliographically/externally bare project”, as one could put it following your terminology, is quite a non-sense.

But even a “bibliographically/externally bare” species is puzzling to say the least, especially when it is void of iNat observations, either completely void, or missing critical areas where it is known to exist from scientific publications or other sources of information.

As for automatically created connections, I suppose that agreements should be arranged between iNat and the journals or databases, one by one. I agree that this must be a lot of work, but it can be done, one by one, provided that there is a “structure” that allows to do that.

But perhaps it is simpler to start by considering that the most relevant missing information could be easily added by “pseudo-observers” manually :

  • the pseudo-observers will have had access already to the external data, so I suppose no barrier problem for iNat. Pseudoobservers are responsible for that information, which will be checked by pseudoidentifiers like for the previously unpublished iNat observations.

  • but of course this requires a structure where to putthis external information, easily accessible and very visible from the start,

  • and any such pseudo-observations should be formatted so as to provide map information and to appear in the same maps as the original/genuine iNat observations (presumably with a different symbol).

A “pseudo-observations” parameter could be useful…

The map page for a taxa already can display observations data from GBIF which is one of the largest aggregators of biodiversity data on the web. It is turned off by default, but can be enabled with a single click.

You cant click on the data point for info, likely as it would be a massive infrastructure issue to generate a webpage with tens or even hundreds of thousands of links.

As for links to papers, all users can add links in the additional info tab on the taxon page if they so wish.

One of, if not the core values of the site is that it collects people’s personal interactions with biodiversity. The site has stated on many times they do not wish to be a general data aggregator that there are other sites on the web filling this role.


Agreed, aggregating data from scientific papers (while a worthy goal) isn’t really what iNat is for.

For scientific papers, hopefully the authors are depositing specimens or records with a scientific collection at a university or museum. Many of those collections/museums are linked to GBIF or other aggregators, so those data can be made available in that way.


@cmcheatle @cthawley thank you for the explanations ; iNat is extremely user-friendly for any naturalist of any kind and degree and I am sure that you would agree that its scope could be rediscussed to some extent.

In fact I tried to raise 2 points : 1) aggregating external information and 2) helping to select data of interest from external information. The former can be done automatically, and I am happy and relieved to learn that GBIF can be shown on maps. I apologize that I was not aware of this.

However I would like to reemphasize that adding external information and viewing it should be made as easy as many of the other user friendly tools in iNat.

Along this line as for “easy-viewing”, can GBIF data become visible on maps associated with the observations in addition to maps associated with taxon web pages ? Observations are the starting point for many observers, notably those are not familiar with the corresponding taxonomy.

As for the part of “easy-entering” relevant external information, I apologize but I am unable to find where users can add links to papers. In addition and again, without connecting this information to maps, this information will be hardly seen and hardly used. And without any kind of peer-review, it could not be trusted.

As mentioned above, this external information should help people, like the commentaries to observations, and people should be clearly informed that such information is readily available or could be entered in structured form - as easily and visibly as possible. Hence pseudo-observations.

I apologize if my knowledge of iNat is rudimentary. But rather than an extension, the non-automated pseudo-observations may provide an important complement to “the core values of the site” as “people’s personal interactions with biodiversity.” can hardly become strong without strong personal interactions with available knowledge.

The likely reason why GBIF and other sources are not available or shown on the map for an observation is sheer volume. They would likely just overwhelm the map, both visually and in terms of ability to interact or click on anything.

For example there are over 12 million records of Mallard observations on GBIF alone. Even on a relatively zoomed in view, they could just swamp the map.


In that case the map will be swamped at the taxon level as well. And to all swamping problems, I suppose that informaticians would find a conceptually sound solution.

For example, the options would automatically be disabled beyond a certain density, ideally and in part with an user defined setting; indeed adding external data points is most useful if iNat observations are few or absent.

That’s why it is turned off by default. The functionality to turn them on exists on both the taxon and observation page already.

Perhaps there is a misunderstanding. Please let’s go back to my question on this point : can one activate the GBIF data view on a given taxon map when viewing the web page of a single observation of that taxon ?

Yes, the functionality is identical on either page. The small squares are the GBIF data.

Note to @carrieseltzer who I see is reading this thread. Please pass on to your designer:

  • the GBIF records should be a different colour and/or shape than the iNat records, a smaller version of the same colour pin is not ideal to separate them
  • the GBIF link is hard to activate because it tends to fall on top of the links from the map generated automatically by Google.

This is great thank you (and even better if you make those small points more recognizable as you write). Perhaps the option could be made more visible per se (the “overlays” icon could have a name like “other data”)

Again all my apologies for not being aware of that option. The question of adding other local databases is secondary, yet perhaps not to neglect entirely( something like an additiona line that would open other databases, separated from GBIF).

I would say that the only highly relevant remaining point is on manually entering external data in a highly visible/accessible structure, connected to maps (pseudo-observations).

That would be a sizable change, yet I suppose that in terms of informatics, it is essentially a duplication of a few features of the “observations” structure. I hope I am not too naive.

If you have a specific request, please submit it to #feature-requests.

The GBIF points are pink. When you zoom in, they remain squares and the orange iNat squares change into inverted teardrops.


which GBIF links are you referring to? I don’t think I’m able to click on GBIF observations on the map.


There are already at least 2 separate tools on the site that do this:

The More Info links on the taxon page (which all users can add to)

A significant number of taxa have the Wikipedia article showing (note it only works in English, a feature request about this is pending which is why my screenprints suddenly change languages). At the bottom are all the external database links Wikipedia and/or Wikidata has about that taxon in link form. If not present, anyone can add an or edit the relevant Wikipedia/Wikidata content which is automatically picked up.

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