Well yes, that is clearly stated on the Frequently Used Responses page, I quote:
Anything: Hi, welcome to iNaturalist! iNat is primarily meant for wild organisms. If you do upload captive or planted things like house plants, garden plants, zoo animals, or pets, please mark them as “captive/cultivated” on the add observation screen. That helps make sure the range maps only represent wild populations. Here’s a short video showing how to do it in the mobile app: https://vimeo.com/331151155 On the website, you can also mark it after uploading the observation by clicking the “thumbs down” next to “Organism is wild” in the Data Quality Assessment section at the bottom of this page. Thanks! (My bold)
But reading this thread, the general impression is that uploading captive/cultivated organisms is not just acceptable, but on the whole a good thing to do… as long as they are clearly labelled as such.
Now that is just not going to happen as long as these observations are being labelled with the…
… a disincentive clear to even someone who doesn’t understand the intimate workings of iNat’s ID process. Perhaps before any other consideration, the iNat philosophy on this first needs to be clarified in-house.
As an unashamed and unredeemable “wild snob”, I would be more than happy NOT to see cultivated/captive observations in iNat, except for very specific cases, such as insect host plants, plants with galls, and such like. My ideal would be…
But given that this seems pretty unlikely to happen, the only other viable option would seem to be a parallel workflow, without the disparaging grey label, with a separate “Cultivated/Captive Needs ID” pile arriving at the Cultivated/Captive equivalent of “Research Grade”.
I do feel strongly though that the two categories should be kept visibly and functionally separate:
to avoid IDers wanting to concentrate on “wild” organisms (like me) from having to click through a sack of non-wild observations to filter them out;
to help the less experienced observer understand what “wild” actually means: yes the dandelion growing in the cracks of the pavement, no the plane trees planted along the avenue; yes the butterfly feeding on the buddleia bush, no the stick insects raised in the terrarium; yes the roe deer (native where I live), no the free grazing horses (although obviously there will always be those borderline cases that keep us fretting).
And yes, I’m afraid I do feel that (except in the cases mentioned above) “wild” observations are more valuable than “captive/cultivated”, but then as I’ve already said, I am an inveterate “wild” snob, always have been and always will be. Sorry guys!
Yesterday I stumbled upon a user who marked as wild a hundred among his observations of cultivated plants. He has been aided by other users (on average three votes in favour of the wild status for every observation). So, it became relatively more difficult to overcome the wrong DQAs.
The question here is: which can be the incentives to make these users understand the necessity to keep the DQA faithful to reality?
If that needed to be explained in a forum post, it is not obvious enough in the site design. How about adding a comment from iNat saying this was marked cultivated automatically, with a link to the page that talks about that. In cases where this happens, it seems a bit rude to change something so fundamental about an observation without any explanation.
I noticed lately since school is back in session that there’s been a deluge of new observations coming from college campuses, many times the same observations from different student users. The vast majority of them are planted trees. What I’ve been doing is confirming the IDs where appropriate then immediately voting them as captive. Is this the best course of action? Should I add a brief comment directing these students to mark captive plants as such in future observations, or is that way over the top?
Yes, voting these captive/cultivated helps! Ideally instructors will sort them out but sometimes it’s hard to keep up. The other side of the equation is for instructors to set up class projects to only count wild observations. In my experience, this will result in students asking why their observations aren’t counting which gives another chance to instruct them on wild vs. captive/cultivated. Some students will only pay attention to instructions when not doing so risks hurting their grade.
In my experience, folks not marking things captive comes down to one of three scenarios:
the person just doesn’t yet understand the distinction between captive and wild and so the mistake is always innocent.
the person has a disagreement on whether that individual should be considered captive or not (aka the Grey Area).
there is too much of a draw to have higher species numbers overall or during a bioblitz, a draw to post “unusual” observations that are interesting, or otherwise let the allure of potential override necessary data quality guidelines.
In the first 2 scenarios, the incentive to provide good data is present. In the third scenario, there is no incentive against those circumstances aside from trying to keep people truthful and focus on what’s really important.