What is preferred way to change an initial identification?


What is the preferred way to change my initial identification for an observation? Do I withdraw it? Or is there a way to edit it other than adding a new identification? I’m new on iNaturalist and am beginning to realize that I’ve not really been using it correctly.


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You can both withdraw or delete the wrong id, there’s no actual difference, but you can’t edit an id.
But if you can make a new id (https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/help#id-agree), you can add it and old one will be withdrawn automatically.


If nobody has added a 2nd ID or comment :

  • delete your original ID

If somebody has added a 2nd ID :

  • if it is not in conflict with your original ID

    • no need to do anything, as it will not impact community taxon.
  • if it is in conflict with your original ID :

    • if you cannot independently verify the new ID, use withdraw button.
    • if you can independently verify the new ID, use agree button.

Add a new ID.
If your first one was a typo - you can click edit and then delete.

If your (wrong) ID is part of an ongoing discussion in comments, rather withdraw.


As Diana has just said, I would only delete an ID if it was a typo that I noticed quickly and no-one had responded to it.


The best practice is to default to just adding a new ID which will withdraw your previous ID automatically. Changing your ID is not a problem (many users do it all the time), and having a withdrawn ID won’t be held against you or reflect poorly on you (I’m saying this explicitly since some users initially think/feel this way). The reason that this is the most useful practice is it preserves the identification history of an observation. When users can track the sequences of IDs, it helps other IDs and comments make sense.

While it is possible to totally delete an identification if you wish, this can lead to confusion as mentioned above, and is often unnecessary. Some users choose to delete IDs made due to misspellings or wrong clicks (though this isn’t necessary). This might be useful in some situations mentioned by other users, especially if no one else has made a comment or ID after the one you are thinking about deleting.

You are not obliged to change or withdraw your ID if someone disagrees with it. If someone disagrees with your ID, you should reexamine it and make sure you still feel it is correct. It might be appropriate to leave a comment explaining why your ID disagrees, or politely ask another user how they made the determination of an ID that disagrees with yours…this is a great way for everyone to learn. Similarly, if someone posts a more specific ID than yours, you are not obliged to agree with their ID, and should only do so if you can verify the more specific ID based on your own expertise. If someone’s new ID or comment leads you to believe that your first ID might not be correct, you can add a more generic ID (maybe bumping back a specific species ID to family level, for example), or withdraw it altogether.


I have nothing to add to what others have said, but welcome to iNaturalist and this forum! It is great you care enough to try to find out how to do a good job. I hope you see many cool species and learn a lot from using iNat - I certainly have!


The only thing I would note is that there is no Withdraw function on the iOS app. So, iOS users have to log into the website to withdraw. For iOS users, it may be easier to just add a new ID in the app.

I know that was confusing when I started iNat.


When I find I’ve made a mistake, I prefer to make a new, hopefully correct identification. That will automatically withdraw my earlier, wrong ID. This leaves a record of my error, but I think that’s useful to people who need to know that we all make mistakes – they’re not alone.

Exception: When I’ve made a misclick or typo, I often “delete” instead. That’s optional, though.


I’ll just echo @lynnharper - Welcome to iNat and the Forum.
I’ve seen, and made, lots of erroneous initial ID’s, and simply withdraw them, or change the ID, when I find out differently. No harm done! Very few things are irreversible.


@cthawley wrote a great reply.

I will echo that, and add that disagreements on IDs happen sometimes, in the natural course of people trying to ID things.

It is perfectly okay to ask each other why you or someone else gave a certain ID. This is actually important for both scientific accountability (to check for mistakes and settle disagreements) and for learning new organisms to ID.

If you want to challenge or are simply curious about someone’s ID, ask them politely why they think it’s that. You are not obligated to withdraw a disagreeing ID, but rather you should consider the evidence given and decide what to do with it. You can replace your ID if you personally feel confident in a new ID, or you can just withdraw it and not replace it (or replace it with a broader taxon) if you’re no longer sure, or even just stick with your original judgement. (Don’t just blindly agree with others’ IDs because they were posted!)

If you think your ID was wrong, I recommend just withdrawing it (or giving a new ID which auto-withdraws the old one). While you can also delete it, the old ID can provide information to people should they want to know the ID history. (It’s even possible that the old ID was the correct one!)

If you made a typo and entered a completely wrong taxon (e.g. if you meant elephant shrew but clicked elephant shark), you can delete that, but I personally would just leave it there. Because it’s funnier that way.


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