Should "As good as it can be" trigger Research Grade?

It could be « going casual as Convolvuleae and getting out of our way ». No need for it to become RG.

Most of the times when I’ve checked the “good as it can be” option is in response to the “Yes” option being checked for whatever reason, even after 3 or more people have agreed on the species. It appears to be a common mistake which keeps some observations from being accepted at research grade. So I check the “good as can be” option to keep it from reappearing not only in in my search pool, but others as well.

The other times I check this option is for species that cannot be reliably ID’d to the species level by photos alone, like the geometer genus Xanthotype, or the fungi genus Strobilomyces.

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I never mark an observation ‘as good as it can be’ because I do not know if it is as good as it can be from the perspective of others. Interestingly, other users feel that they can make this judgement for all other users other then themselves. I can see that at times, this is correct, but I would also caution for its use. How can we know when the observation is ‘as good as it gets’? Besides obvious photo quality concerns, identification practices to me are ever-evolving, and as such, I feel marking ‘as good as it gets’ might not be a future proof data quality assessment.


I think this is an unfortunate side effect of not having a suitable mechanism to mark multi-species observations as such. We use the box “can the community ID be improved” because there is no better option, but it is only a workaround; the box is not really intended for this purpose. (In most cases, using it does send multi-species observations to casual, because such observations are generally a haphazard mix of unrelated organisms, so the lowest common taxon is something like “life” or “plantae” or “pterygota”.)


I agree with this viewpoint. IMHO there are definitely fungi that should be marked as good as it can be (for example, a red russula with poor pictures and no spore print or microscopy or saved specimen than can be gene sequenced.) But for unsubscribed species, they can get better - and there’s (hopefully) an active effort to get those officially described. And they might just stay at genus level for a while, and that’s okay.

You may occasionally see a provisional name in comments or in an observation field - the observation field is especially useful because you can then just click on the field and observe all the species tagged with that particular provisional - and once its described its very easy to just go in and add the proper name to those observations.

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For identifiers of groups that are difficult (or often impossible) to ID from photos alone, this option is basically the only way to manage the “Needs ID” queue. Cell phone images of tiny arthropods, for example, are often only clear enough to ID to family - if even that. Checking this box is the only way to get those out of the queue.

In my traditional ID queue (Spiders / USA) 56% of all observations, almost 1 million, are Needs-ID. There is no practical way for anyone to address this - and over the past few years many identifiers have either stopped making IDs, restricted their work to their local area or specific groups, or left iNat entirely. One time I spent a solid month (like 40hrs/week) reviewing and making IDs, and ultimately only a couple percent of those resulted in observations reaching RG. It catapulted me to the #1 global identifier for Spiders, and still did not make a visible dent in the Needs-ID pile. I have reviewed a significant % of that pile and I am quite confident that most of what’s left will never get a specific or even genus-level ID. But it will stay there in “Needs ID” probably forever.

Anyway, just wanted to point out that, at least for some taxa, there is a reasonable (IMO) motivation to make more liberal use of this flag - the desire to not drive away the remaining IDers in those groups. I do understand that having observations be identified or even seen by other people is not the main goal of iNat, but I do think the site thrives when there is a healthy balance of observers and identifiers. There are several groups that I only really started paying attention to after experts started leaving encouraging comments on my photos.

Since that ^^ is kind of separate from the main question of the OP: I do think it is sort of a fundamental design flaw in the site, but I understand why it was implemented this way. The primary goal of iNat is not to generate usable research data, it’s to get people outside interacting with nature. Telling people that their photos are unidentifiable may be discouraging. So we are left with “Identified” or “Not yet identified” - because “Sorry, not identifiable” would be seen as discouraging, and that would run counter to the real goal of the site. A fourth status that is equivalent to “Highest Possible Grade” would be a welcome change for many groups, especially tiny critters.


That’s the most frequent one I mark “as good as it gets”

I wish there was some interest in undescribed gall midges. There are some really cool ones like Q. nigra cone gall and T. distichum starburst gall

Just setting red russulas to ‘as good as it gets’ is like, one of my go-to things to do when I’m bored and don’t feel like engaging too many brain cels on identifications.

Its unfortunate that things galls and fungi and what have so many undescribed things and so little broad interest, but a lot of them just arent super charismatic and so your average person probably doesn’t care. And the people giving out grants aren’t always interested in knowledge-for-knowledge’s sake, so there’s just less incentive.

FFS with fungi people only seem to care if they can eat it or trip off it.


Often, when issues like this come up, someone will reply that getting to RG is not essential or important. Well, they don’t get to make that subjective determination for anyone but themselves. What you describe would be very frustrating, not just for you, but for many of those observers, too. When I come across a profile with only a few, old observations, most of which are at very wide-level identifications, I always wonder if the lack of specific identifications was the reason they left.


To clarify a point that’s come up several times in the thread, clicking this box will make something research grade if it is identified narrower than Family (i.e. not including Family).

I think it’s really quite important to use this feature, especially in genera that are abundant and mostly not identifiable in photos. The queue gets so long and full of unidentifiables, that the rare and interesting observations get buried, never to be seen by anyone. Of course, you have to have a good reason to click the box - you have to be confident that the observation does not show the necessary features. And also, as with every aspect of identifying, there will be occasional errors of judgement. But the alternative is often to abandon the whole genus to a sort of limbo, where few observations get any attention at all, and really interesting observations are lost. Also, someone with a new perspective who wants to go through the whole genus, will have the motivation to check the RG observations too - RG is not actually a permanent impediment to improvement.

EDIT apologies @jasonhernandez74 that wasn’t meant to be a specific reply to yourself


As far as I am concerned, I think that it would be better not to automatically elevate as RG nor to export to GBIF those observations that have been marked “as good as it can be”.
Alternatively, at most, only the observations of a selected handful of genera (or subgenera/complexes) that are frequently almost unidentifiable with photos in the field could deserve to get to RG in marked so. E. g.: Taraxacum, Hieracium, Alchemilla, etc.

But surely this is the whole point of the button. Such observations are not ‘automatically’ elevated to research grade - they are raised to research grade manually, by a deliberate act of pressing the button. Who would decide which taxa are unidentifiable, and from which angles? Surely the best people to decide are the people who know the taxon, and click the button.


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