The problem with blindly using biodiversity databases

Sure… but still… I see the context below it as being in conflict with the title statement too to some extent. And in the current layout the title statement is one of the most visually dominant aspects of the entire page…which given how confused some people are about this aspect of iNaturalist, seems perhaps, not ideal.

Am I right in remembering that you have a Wiki or thread somewhere about positive outreach action to get more expertise on board?

1 Like though I haven’t kept it updated


nice! be great to update / have this as a wiki
(if not too contentious re:what should or should not be included)

1 Like

What would that look like?


I agree with others here that how we talk about the scientific role or utility of iNat data is important. I understand that the mission of iNat is first and foremost to help people connect with nature and with each other and that biodiversity data collection is a secondary role. Some might even say a byproduct. But I think that the data generated by iNat is so important and impressive that it needs to be better recognized as an outstanding source of knowledge on biodiversity. By emphasizing the secondary nature of the data being collected, I feel it may promote a bit of carelessness when it comes to the data being collected. Reading the forum, I sometimes have the impression that some problems with data quality are discarded as being not so important because the data collection is just a secondary role and the data is a bit of a mess anyway. I think a bit more care could go into the data quality assessments. For example, issues such as duplicate observations could be made easier to flag, stronger measures could be taken to reduce blind agreeing, perhaps expert contributions could be given a bit more emphasis, etc. Also, the responsibility of the data quality seems to be partly relegated to scientists wanting to use the data. Of course, scientists have a lot of responsibility when using iNat data. Observations will probably need to be filtered to clean up some data, IDs need to be verified for smaller projects and necessary caveats need to be expressed when interpreting the results of any analysis making use of iNat data. However, a lot of verifications cannot possibly be done by scientists for larger projects (e.g. confirming IDs) and I think if some things can be done here to improve data quality, it should done. That does not mean turning iNat into an expert platform, which would certainly entails a lost and would not be good for the first role of iNat with which I totally agree. But, better acknowledging the potential role of iNat data in biodiversity research seems like it may promote better quality data through user behaviour and perhaps through improvements in functionalities that increase data quality.

Just to be clear, I don’t want to give the impression that I think that iNatters are completely careless about the data or that the developers are not doing enough. I can’t imagine how much work and dedication must be needed to maintain and develop such an outstanding platform! I know that some of the issues have been discussed and that some of the potential improvements are far from being straightforward to implement. Also, finding ways to improve data quality/usability without jeopardizing accessibility is without a doubt a challenge.


Adding ability to properly mark duplicates is what we all seek for quite some time! Like adding it in the row of questions on the bottom of observation page. But experts will never get more weight, this question is a regular one, and all users will stay at the same level at least while the current paradigm of the website stays.
Ids are verified even in cases of big numbers, there’re people checking RG observations and I know local botanists are looking through all the plants in country project this winter (around 900k of them), with many reids made. Surely some regions are lacking experts even to check first ids, sometimes because of too few observers, sometimes because of too many of them. But if you want to use data in this world there’s no place with 100% correct data, so you will do checking anyway and something will stay wrong and statistically it can be calculated.
So what is being written on the forum about data is not necessary the exact truth, at least not the most obvious interpretation, in my opinion it is said to make people less focused on those negative sides, otherwise it can be unbearable for many. It is something why iNat stands out from “true expert” websites.


For me I think a dedicated+officially endorsed FAQ on this common topic could help for starters. Something pinned/visible by all, with well considered wording, limiting need for questionable rebuttals, skewed paraphrasing and personal takes. It could acknowledge that there are issues with certain taxa and locations that do need attention and have info like:

  • iNat staff’s position on expertise, accuracy and robust data, etc
  • the range of views visible within iNat’s community on expertise, accuracy and robust data:
  • what we do know about the accuracy of iNat data :
  • the things that can cause accuracy issues that iNat can’t control:
  • the things that can cause accuracy issues that iNat are trying to get better with:
  • ways in which iNat can help:
  • ways in which the community can help:
  • ways in which you can help:
  • concrete suggestions on how we can improve accuracy and robustness which are not mentioned above, can be logged in this place:
  • Etc etc

Just riffing…but that sort of thing perhaps?

But yeah, in addition, something like @bouteloua’s list is also a great approach I think … where we can collect common complaints and explore more practical ways to address them as a community.

Hi - I chose the words “find ways to talk about the philosophy that is more welcoming” intentionally. There are dedicated, generous specialists who clearly feel welcome here. As discussed on this thread, there are others who have reservations.

In regard to the particular expert who closed their account, I was so sad to see that knowledge that they had already shared - specialist ids - go missing, and this does have an impact on the wider community. But I see that there is a whole thread on this:

I’m thinking about preparing some unofficial materials to promote taxon experts’ engagement with the site, thinking about people who are very focused on a particular group (e.g. for Red Listing). Including tips for when and how iNat data can be useful, and for getting involved with id, with links to the growing collection of tutorials… Maybe a workflow for finding observations that could be your focal species starting with verifying any at RG and working outwards. There is lots of good stuff to build on, and I think there’s a niche. But perhaps this too belongs in a different thread!