"Research Grade" fungi at the genera level?

Fungi/lichens are notoriously hard to ID from a photograph alone. It makes much more sense to encourage fungal observers to be ok with IDs at genus-level. Many species require a spore print or chemical test to differentiate and this has been shown in research on the topic (An assessment of data accuracy and best practice recommendations for observations of lichens and other taxonomically difficult taxa on iNaturalist, McMullen and Allen). Meanwhile, if three people all agree on a genus level observation, it remains “non-research grade”. In my opinion, if 3+ people are all unable to bring it to a species level, this indicates that it’s as good as it can get. Of course, there’s always the possibility that the photo just isn’t good quality, but that’s a separate issue.

Could phylogenetic groups that are known to be visually prone to indifferentiable photos (fungi, lichens, slime molds) be “fungal research grade” or does someone have a similar suggestion? I just feel like people make incorrect species IDs because they feel pushed to make a research grade ID.

In the “Data Quality Assessment” section at the bottom of the page (on web, not available on phone apps I believe), there’s a question “Based on the evidence, can the Community Taxon still be confirmed or improved?” If you click “No, it’s as good as it can be”, then observations whose community taxa are at subfamily level or lower will become research grade. Note that this doesn’t preclude people from continuing to add more specific IDs, but it should accomplish part of what you’re asking.


Also note, that this option should only be used when someone has a relatively high expertise in a specific taxon. If effectively means - “No, I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to ID this observation further”, not just “I can’t identify this observation further” It is certainly applicable in cases such as some fungi, insects where genitalia dissection is needed to distinguish species, a key field mark is not visible, etc. (though even then it may be worth posting a comment - sometimes the observer can add/describe the needed evidence!)