Spoofing Research Grade

I’ve noticed that when I identify something the original poster (who often had no idea) then posts the same id to bump it up to ResearchGrade. Obviously we all like our records to be ResearchGrade but, IMHO, this is spoofing the system.
I assume it would be possible to block the original poster from confirming like this, or better, to allow him to confirm but not count it towards RG?


There’s been a fair amount of discussion of this issue on the forum including some feature requests, so I’d suggest checking out some of the existing threads. A quick sampling:

Some requests are open for comment, though some threads have closed. If you want to add to one of those discussions, you can tag a moderator and they can open it for you.

Some solutions for you as an IDer are to withdraw your initial ID or ID to a higher level so the observation doesn’t go to RG, to leave a comment explaining that users should only agree to their own level of expertise (many beginning users don’t understand this - see some of those linked threads), or to use the “Can still be improved” option in the DQA (though if you do this, please keep up to date with the observation, and remove the check when appropriate so it doesn’t remain in the Needs ID pool forever…)


While I agree that your scenario does happen frequently, it’s also not always a negative thing. Sometimes I make a typo in my initial ID or simply overlook a far more obvious species that, for whatever reason, just didn’t come to mind at the time. It might even be a species I’m familiar with but just overlooked the obvious. After someone else suggests the correct ID, and maybe even makes a comment explaining why, in some situations I feel extremely confident that their ID is correct and I have no reason to no agree with their ID and have it become research grade. Of course, I would mainly do this for birds and not for other things such as plants or butterflies where I don’t have a good fundamental knowledge of how to ID them.


I do this! Even though I may not be able to provide an initial i.d. for my observations, the i.d’s provided subsequently enable me to do sufficient research into their suggestions to the extent that I will then agree with their i.d. It’s one of the ways of using Inat to further ones own knowledge!


“spoofing research grade” makes this seem like a much more malicious act than it is. I think a lot of time this behavior is more accurately described as “I trust this person’s interpretation of this ID” in a similar vein to how most people would trust a field guide to be accurate without having to consult original descriptions just to make sure the field guide is correct. Are inat identifiers as reliable as printed guides? It’s variable but i would argue, often yes :) Most identifiers aren’t identifying things that they aren’t at least a little confident about. Does this sometimes lead to some misidentifications? Yes, but field guides aren’t infallible either. I think agreements are often made based on whatever resources are available to a person and a lot of the time the most valuable resource can be “this person that I trust knows what they’re talking about.”


Another aspect to keep in mind: echoing another user’s IDs may be the only way for one to keep a record of what an observation was identified as if the other identifier ends up deleting their account. There have been several examples over the years where experts who had contributed lots of improving IDs that weren’t echoed eventually deleted their account, which also deletes all their IDs (which is poor design on iNat’s part), pushing the thousands of observations they’d helped curate back to whatever generic ID they’d been posted under originally! So while I get that this behavior can sometimes be frustrating, it’s not always coming from a “cheating” mindset.


Many observations are from very casual iNat users who have little idea how the ID system is intended to be used. When I was first on iNat I used to click the “Agree” button as a way of acknowledging that the other person was probably right. Then one of these IDers politely pointed out to me that this isn’t the intended use, and I learned. Drafting a couple of friendly sentences and keeping them handy to paste in as a comment can go a long way for very little work.