What counts towards a person's identification counts?

Casual observations are not counted in certain situations. See related post here.

If one agrees with a Research Grade observation submitted by another user, does this count as an identification ?

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yes, as it should


Are all identifications counted, or only ones that match the community ID? E.g., if a picture of a moose has 10 IDs calling it a moose, and I add an ID calling it a fungus, does that still boost my identification count? (I think the answer is yes, but am hoping someone knows for sure.)

If it counts then one can easily go and agree with all research grade observations to artificially boost ones identification count and I believe this what the person I mentioned in my post is doing.

It would be nice to one another metric that show those who contributed leading identification and those whose disagreement agree with the research grade id as these are the real users who are the experts.


It’s an Identification count–not a determination of who is an expert.

From the iNaturalist help page https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/help#identification, this is what one should not do: “Please do not simply “Agree” with an ID that someone else has made without confirming that you understand how to identify that taxon. An identification confirms that you can confidently identify it yourself compared to any possible lookalikes. If you agree with the ID without actually knowing the taxon, it may reach Research Grade erroneously.”

But if anyone thinks they do understand how to identify it, they can add their identification.

Here is an iNaturalist page that encourages users to review Research Grade observations and see if they can confirm them: https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/lets_id_some_arthropods


There’s nothing artificial about it – they really have done that many identifications. Whether those were all equally useful or good identifications is a separate question. In my area of interest, I have found more than one identifier who prefers to boost their numbers by going over old RG observations and uncritically adding IDs. I have multiple times asked these people to pay more attention as I have later found and corrected many observations that had originally been misidentified by 2 or 3 people where they had added more wrong IDs. It just makes it that much harder to correct when there’s another vote for the wrong thing…

I do agree that often users see a high identification count and think it means “expert”, and that’s maybe not such a good thing.


there are many reasons why I will unapologetically agree with research grade observations:

  1. the observation is bare minimum research grade, ie a guess from one person and an uncritical agreement from the observer, and I want to throw in a vote of confidence
  2. only 2 identifications is not enough to protect an observation from malicious troll behavior. any user can come in and offer bogus IDs on these observations that will upset the community ID, and a third RG ID may be annoying to the observer but it protects against this
  3. because it allows me to review the observation to get it out the way so that I may see more observations. I go through RG obs because even if they are right 95% of the time, every now and then bad IDs sneak in and those need to be corrected. I could just check the “reviewed” box on good RG observations, but the problem with that is that they are only good right now. If those observations are trolled later (see point #2), then I would have no way of knowing that since checking the “reviewed” box makes them invisible to me
  4. because i know what something is and I wish to provide an identification

and these are just a few reasons!


Re 1-2, I also do a third with those in mind- and also because I initially thought the site needed a 3rd vote to count for going out to other sites like GBIF (I must have misread).

Re 3-4, I do that often as an element of training too. Like, I decide to learn more about a particular species and through all the relevant records of that particular species after studying up: “Yes, I can now see that’s what it is, so I’ll be the third person.” I leave the ones I’m not sure about of course, and maybe later will come back with additional confidence- or disagreement- after more study and experience.

Since I do runs of those ids, I then get pinged with sets of notifications when other people do that same run, and sense that some folks are regularly doing the same as I am. No harm done as far as I can tell!


I don’t see any harm in a user adding their agreement to large numbers of records that are already Research Grade, provided the person knows what they are doing and even if they are mostly motivated by a desire to be a “power identifier.”

I do see a problem in one case I’ve run across where a certain “power identifier” will purposefully insert a species-level ID when a subspecies-level ID has already been proposed and agreed to by two or more other users. This person’s species-level ID is not because the proposed subspecies is wrong but because he/she is (apparently) philosophically opposed to the idea of subspecies. I can agree that in some cases a subspecies ID might not be appropriate since in many taxa subspecies are rather poorly defined. But in other cases the subspecies is a useful taxon to recognize and a species-level ID “dilutes” the ID value of the record.

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i’ve done a species level ID on subspeices without explicit disagreement because i either don’t agree with or don’t know the subspecies, with the intent not to get rid of the subspecies but just to allow it to be research grade at species level. But this still removes the subspecies, or did. It’s kind of an odd system. I don’t intentionally knock back to species just because a subspecies is possibly bogus, though, it’s easy to just ignore them


Agree there is nothing wrong with agreeing with research grade observation and as the rest pointed out it reinforced the id as correct, except when one blindly agreeing.

As you said a high identification count is generally perceived as “expert”, which is generally true.

I too have done species level id without disagreement because I do not have the local knowledge to ascertain the subspecies id.

I did quite a lot of identifying over the City Nature weekend, to try to help correct misidentifications, or move things from unidentified to at least “plant” or “insect” to enable those better qualified than me to find them. At best I was able to identify multiple examples of the most common species, or more distinctive, less common ones that have happened to be among my own observations (and also, I’m sure, several mis-identifications - we don’t know what we don’t know, and I’m finding that it’s the corrected misidentifications that teach me the most - that’s basic cognitive science). But probably 75% of it was high level IDs to, hopefully, make things a bit easier for the expert identifiers to find.

I was absolutely horrified to discover that I was suddenly on the leader board for Malaysia in company with the likes of gancw1, johnascher, kokhuitan, and higher than others like charliev and johnhowes (all of whom I have learned masses from and have the greatest respect and admiration for) who are really more deserving of a place there than me. I find it odd that my identification that says simply “This is not the North American species you have suggested, but it is an insect” counts for as much as their species level identifications. If there was an “opt out of having my identification count included in the listings” option, I would happily take it!


Shouldn’t the observer’s own identifications be counted as well ? If the observer correctly id his observations, that should be counted towards the identification count.


I do the same type of thing and from what I gather in this thread, that could bring confusion. I just updated my profile description so that if people click through looking for an expert, they will at least know I’m “high volume but not high experience” on some things. Thanks for the perspectives everyone!


@gancw1: “Shouldn’t the observer’s own identifications be counted as well ?”

I cannot understand why this is not the case already. Can someone please clarify?

From @kueda here:

“It helps highlight people who don’t add a lot of observations but do help other people out a bunch.”


Thank you for your reply @bouteloua. I am not sure why counting ids of own observations would diminish that goal though. The people who help other people out a bunch would still come out; they would just come out even more if they also id their own observations (which doesn’t sound illogical to me).

I can see that there are distinct values in bringing observations into iNat and in IDing them, and I can see why it’s important to encourage both, and thus why they are tallied separately. I am just not sure why IDing one’s observations is not valued.

It seems to me that if someone makes the effort to try to ID their own observations, they are going one step further than someone who is “only” uploading photos, and this extra step is a very valuable one that should be very actively encouraged:

  • For beginners (and we all are, for nearly all taxa), trying to ID one’s observations is highly pedagogical: makes people understand better what they see, and develop their ID skills more actively. It will improve the quality of their future observations, as they learn which traits are key for identification (e.g., someone who tries to ID butterflies will soon realise the importance of taking photos of upperwings AND of underwings). It will (I predict) make people more likely to start IDing other people’s observations too.

  • If people are experts, then they are the best placed to ID their own observations. They set the record straight from the beginning, which helps other people learn. For obscure/rare taxa, self-IDs may well be the only correct IDs available, so it makes sense to me to highlight these people as “Top identifiers” for these taxa.

Many thanks for all your hard work. I am really enjoying iNaturalist.


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