Should Wikipedia be used as a qualified resource for iNaturalist?

Yes, we don’t wanna hear that! :wink: But it is true nonetheless.


I haven’t read the entire thread here so I’ll just respond on a whim:

Anyone can contribute, which means anyone of any credibility can make changes. There is however some level of requirement for edits, so there is some vetting (think of it like the research grade system on iNat, but by trusted “moderators” only). In a sense it means most information added is not entirely susceptible to speculation or falsification. The requirement of citations is also an extra layer that helps justify any particular factual claims. So I guess take it all with a grain of salt, but in short, if you need to use this information for any serious reason, there should be adequate citations you can cite instead of the wikipedia page.


I think it’d be cool if iNat used books like Systema Naturae as a reference, like quoting parts of the book and saying what page that quote is from.

Question: if the Wikipedia page for a taxon is revised, updated, and improved, how does that carry over to the iNat taxon page? Do the iNat taxon pages synchronize somehow with Wikipedia? I’ve never checked to see if an iNat page is current with what’s on Wikipedia.

It is the same text. iNat displays Wiki. iNatters update the Wiki. Round and round. As you were.

Thanks, I was wondering how regularly any revisions on the Wiki taxon page are reflected on the iNat taxon page. You can see a date of when the Wiki page was last revised but I haven’t noticed that on the iNat page.

It’s likely an active hyperlink type of thing, it is not a separate page.

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People on these threads can tell you?

A lot of what is in Systema Naturae is now out of date (it’s from 1793 and taxonomy changes), but there is nothing to stop people from citing what is still useful and relevant in the appropriate Wikipedia taxon pages, where it will also be available via iNaturalist.


Unfortunately, that, too, can feed into errors. For example, if the Wikipedia page for a genus has a partial list of species, even people who are aware that it is a partial list will now be unconsciously biased toward those species the article made them aware of, and against the ones they still don’t know about. Then, some of the species in that list will have existing pages, others, nonexistent – more bias, as people will now tend to think – rightly or wrongly – that the ones that have a page are more common and likely to be encountered than the ones that do not. Finally, if some of the species pages have a picture and others don’t, people can only see that the organism they are observing looks a lot like this or that picture, but cannot see that it might look even more like one without a picture; so which one will they identify it as?

Wikipedia is fine as a starting point, as I’m sure many have said already, but it definitely does have to be treated with some caution. I dabbled in editing there for a while and was basically driven away by bullies after commenting on some more controversial topics. Two things I’ve learned from the experience:

  1. There are apparently certain groups of editors who use Wikipedia to try to promote political propaganda and historical revisionism. They seem quite organized and have a lot of time and energy to dedicate to this. In a similar vein, there seem to be editors trying to insert creationist statements into articles about evolution.
  2. Even if a sentence cites a source, you still have to verify it. I’ve added statements backed by scholarly literature, which were later edited to say the exact opposite of what I had written while still leaving the link to the source. I commented that either the statement needs to be reversed or the reference changed, but wasn’t able to get either of those changes to stick in the face of constant re-editing. So now these pages cite sources for statements that aren’t actually backed by the reference cited. Quite a frustrating experience and I eventually gave up as I have better things to do with my time.

Now every time I look at a Wikipedia article, a part of me keeps wondering if this is something somebody could be using to promote some type of agenda, and yes, definitely verify any sources cited before using them for anything in either teaching or research.


It’s easy to add the missing species to the genus article (unless they are very recently described, just like inaturalist wikipedia tries to follow well known references for species lists like powo). And as long as there are pictures on inaturalist with a compatible license it’s also easy to add the missing pictures - unfortunately inat’s default license won’t work, but I had good success asking people to change the license for a single picture to use.

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I experienced the same and stopped editing wikipedia for over 10 years - but at least the botany part of it seems very different, with some very humble and hard working people chipping away daily at a colossal task (of creating a good article for every single plant). And in my experience it’s much more unlikely to encounter someone who insists on adding misinformation to a plant article, and if there is dispute then they don’t seem to go into war mode over it.
I actually found back to editing wikipedia because of inaturalist, seeing a flower description with a typo that I could easily go and fix… :)


I remember an old serial killer page that stated some very wrong things about investigation and it really seemed like partially it was great, then he was arrested “with no concrete evidence at the time”, while in fact there were corrupt policemen who let him free and then a normal cop who linked easily him with new crimes and got evidence easily. I was too tired to edit anything of it, especially on English Wiki. I won’t even comment on political pages.

I view Wikipedia as a good but not perfect source of information. Like iNaturalist, in a way. If I’m just looking up something of casual interest to me, or checking a few details I don’t remember for something I know about, I’ll usually believe the Wikipedia article. If the information is important to me, or if the subject is obviously prone to manipulation for commercial, political, or religious reasons, I’ll check further.

The editors at Wikipedia provide a level of stability and hopefully accuracy. Not always though. A friend has been trying to edit an article to include information about junk DNA and has been foiled by an editor who doesn’t understand the subject and exhibits poor reading comprehension. So the system isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty good in most cases. And fortunately, iNatters consulting Wikipedia will usually be searching for information on esoteric topics nobody messes up for reasons of ideology.


For those, I tend to go to RationalWiki. And on the occasions when someone complains that RationalWiki is unreliable or biased, I know I’m dealing with an unreliable or biased person.

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True. But only after the false information had already been out in the open and reused by others, contrary to the way it works for academic peer-review.

Ah yes, for data like a picture this is true. It is what makes iNat so valuable in many ways. But people tend to confuse the value of the actual data (picture, location ect) with the interpretation of the data (“IDs by anyone”). That is why aforementioned websites didn’t use the pictures as a means to review Phorcus lineatus in the Mediterraneis, but they used the wrong IDs instead. This is not iNaturalists fault. Those websites ignored the real data provided by iNat users and instead believed in the interpretations (which in this case turned out to be wrong).
So, leaving aside the odd troll setting fake geolocations (people are weird), insofar as a photo and its data provide enough detail for identification, I’d consider it a primary source.
But my ID to the photo? Not so much …

I find that a lot of Wikipedia is accurate and oftentimes will have a work-cited section. With that being said you should never blindly trust Wikipedia as there has always been false info incorporated into the site. I tend to think that Wikipedia is great to develop a fundamental understanding of the given topic but further research in well-known databases is needed before drawing any conclusions.


I think Wikipedia can be useful but I’m sure there are some much better sites that could be used.

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