Should site curators be allowed to make another user a curator?

Kinda curious what people think here, but basically it’s been suggested that iNaturalist should not allow a curator to make another user a curator and it’s something I’ve mulled over as well.

Some arguments for allowing only iNat staff to promote a regular user to curator status:

  • Curators have a lot of power, and this would remove one pathway for an unqualified person to become a curator and perhaps do nefarious things.

  • Each curator would have at least been vetted by and communicated with a staff member and would be evaluated by the same set of standards.

  • No “surprise” curator promotions (some users have been made curators by other users without even being asked)

  • Someone whose curator status has been revoked by staff could not have it reinstated by a friend.

Some arguments against allowing only iNat staff to promote a regular user to curator status:

  • Might stymie potentially great candidates from smaller communities, or who don’t speak English well from becoming curators since they’d have to reach out to staff.

  • Staff (usually me) might spend too much time evaluating potential curators when they could be doing other things, so maybe it’s not a great use of resources.

  • Could come off as bit authoritarian.

Would love to hear your thoughts.


I tend to lean toward locking it down to just staff being able to confer curator privileges, unless…

Could it be technically feasible to have a middle ground, with a handful of “senior curators” also able to create new curators, so as to help you with the workload? Just a few folks whose judgment you trust to make good decisions…


I think that @jdmore 's suggestion is good for a middle ground. I also think that cleaning up the current curators should be where one starts - referring to those who do no curation. Maybe start by removing curatorship from current curators who have never curated and have not been active on the site for, say, a year?

Perhaps you could consider having different types of curators as well, or people given curatorship could choose from a list of things they’d be prepared to curate, e.g. taxonomy changes, marking accounts as spam, suspending users etc. Or you could tell them what they can curate?

Or, maybe a person has to complete a tutorial and agree to a Terms&Conditions before they are granted curatorship? I’m thinking here mainly of taxon changes where even long time curators make mistakes that require admins to fix.

And perhaps a person has to give reasons for granting curatorship to another user, just like we have to give reasons for suspending a user.

Just some thoughts :-)


How would ‘staff’ know anything about native bees in Australia? So who gets to curate them?

I think it speaks for the issue of different curator duties. Taxonomy is very different from resolving flags associated with conflict or deleting spam posts.

There are already so many curators,
I don’t think we need more. If we want to make more people curators maybe we can somehow weed out the inactive ones.


I also think I tiered system would be best if possible.

Taxonomic changes aren’t a huge concern and don’t see any issue with the current system there. Geoprivacy changes and suspending users have more potential for abuse.

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Seems I’m in the minority. I’d vote for leaving things just as they are, though a periodic clear out of curators who have never done anything or have been inactive for a long period is warranted, I think. Part of the appeal of iNat for me has been the democratic, ‘wisdom of the masses’ approach to running the site but it seems to be becoming increasingly authoritarian with locked down taxonomies and now a push to restrict curators. Has the system worked alright until now or have there been instances of curators going rogue and making malicious changes that had severe ramifications? This is a genuine query - I’ve not seen any evidence of it but I assume there must have been some problems for this to be raised.


I can think of a few, but obviously Tony would be in the best position to assess this.

One of the most frustrating ones to me is curators suspending users for very minor issues such as a single copyrighted image or swearing. There are some steps toward improving that, such as actually tracking who is suspending who (which only staff can see at this time) and requiring a reason when suspending a user (not yet in place).

Some other issues with “severe” or just disruptive outcomes that have happened that I can think of are incorrect taxon changes by new curators due to a poor understanding of the (admittedly complex) system, or deleting other users’ comments (not sure if this was tracked so I have no idea how common it is, but it’s happened to me), or failing to follow a built consensus around a taxonomic issue or use of vernacular names (which has led to revokation of curatorship).


I have been made a curator, and I envisage in time I would be involved with taxon changes where appropriate. I largely haven;t yet because I don’t know how… for instance I was contemplating having a go at the Hypoblemum albovitattum swap, but I was concerned that I might “stuff it up”, and would have liked someone to walk me through the process.

@bouteloua I have had a comment of mine deleted before, which at the time I thought was a grave abuse of “power”. In retrospect it wasn’t a big deal, but still very alarming that it can happen!

I think there should be more centralised control of curatorial powers. At the very least, in the early stages a new curator should have their curation activities reviewed by staff or “senior curators” to ensure they are on point with their judgement calls.

[edit] I like the idea of new curators being assigned “mentors”… I would attempt a lot more if I had someone I felt I could ask Qs and get feedback from


yeah I think having the #curators category will be really valuable for new curators (those who find and use the forum at least!)


I like @jdmore’s idea about having “senior curators” that could help alleviate some of Tony’s load, as long as it’s clearly communicated that these people have this position because they have committed x amount of taxon changes, flags, etc. and not because they are just an inherently authoritative group appointed by iNat’s Staff.


Eh, some people just want the tools and not to have to deal with other people (or based on their personality, maybe shouldn’t be put in that position…), so I think any “levels” of curation would need to be managed more by hand, not simply assigned based on numbers.


I was wondering if there was any more data (even anecdotal) about the issues with the current structure that @tiwane raised (which I think are all good points to consider). Do any of these seem prevalent currently? Or is this more an exercise to see if some of these issues could be prevented in the future?

One potential idea based on what I’ve heard so far is maybe having two different classes of curators, since the duties/powers seem to fall into two camps: taxonomy and site management (thing like dealing with flags, problematic users, etc.). Of the issues I’ve heard of, it seems like there have been more problems with the site management side of things and that issues with taxonomy have been more honest mistakes (as opposed to curators going rogue and imposing personal taxonomies, etc.). These seem to be very different skill sets and spheres of action. So maybe a person could have powers for one, the other or both (if they’re high level and very experiences) depending on what they were interested in. This could help avoid potential abuses of power.

I also liked the idea of having training/tutorials for curators. This could potentially be done for both taxonomy and site management. I know that while I’m personally a curator, I’ve only made very few taxonomic changes because I’m really scared of messing something up! So I would appreciate this on a personal level (and as @bouteloua noted, having the #curators section on the forum should help with this too!)


Potential issues I see with this is when a user (like me) wants to be involved with both site management and taxonomy. Additionally, many flags due pertain to taxonomy. So if a Taxonomy Curator fixes the flagged issue, would they need to contact a Site-management Curator to actually mark the flag as resolved? It just seems kind of cumbersome.

I dont think it is a huge issue if you are actually an active site curator to be assigned both roles if they split them but you spend 90% of your time in one area or the other. To me the bigger issue is that 75% or more of the people who have been assigned curator status on the site have never done a single curatorial task, or have done almost nothing.

It gives a false sense of the resources available to actually do curating work, it’s all well and good to say ‘well we have several hundred site curators’ when the reality is a high percentage of the issue management is being handled by a much smaller group of active folks.


If I didn’t interact in the forums, I wouldn’t have realized that curators are volunteers. A lot of people that use iNat don’t partake of the forums. If a curator did something to someone’s observations or comments they felt was truly unreasonable, they might pack all of their toys and take them home. If a high volume observer, it could have wasted a lot of peoples time. If a high volume identifier, it could throw a lot of older, often ignored observations into “Needs ID” or worse “Life”.

Can a single curator make another curator? If so, no “wisdom of the masses” currently exists for curator creation, just authority with very little oversight. Some type of curator voting on curator creation would keep the workload where it exists with perhaps more vetting.

If it were a comment pertaining to an observation or identification by the curator I would see it as not only as an abuse of power, but breaking how community IDing is supposed to work. If I don’t think it should have been deleted, but understand that others could, it is then a judgement call. And that is what they get paid the big bucks ( ;) ) to do.



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It wouldn’t be staff curating those bees. Just like now, it would be volunteer iNat users who have requested and been given curator privileges. The question here is, who has the authority and responsibility to grant those privileges? Right now, any other curator has that ability.


I agree that this is an important component of iNaturalist, but the taxon curators aren’t suppose to be authoritarian. Taxon curators have only demonstrated that they are capable of using the Taxon Framework tool and committing Taxon Changes. Taxon Changes aren’t even completely closed off - any curator can draft a Change, even if it is for a locked/‘complete’ group of organisms.

We are currently investigating ways of making this an easier, accessible, and digestible process.


@bobby23 In the idea I was envisioning, people good have both taxonomic and site management qualifications if they wanted them:
“So maybe a person could have powers for one, the other or both (if they’re high level and very experienced)”
So I people who wanted to do both could. Having two separate designations might help assess effort though (like if most folks fall into one group or the other). For instance, I have literally never done any of the site management duties (I don’t think). I’d be happy to not have those “powers”.

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