When does “Suggest an ID” become a “Known”

I am finding that the term “Suggest” seems to create an opportunity for a incorrect I.D.
I think it is extremely important for everyone to KNOW that an Observation is labelled correctly.
If it isn’t right than no one can learn from it.

I suggest that there be an “indisputable” or “known” type tag available so everyone ( especially those that are learning) knows what is right.

As it stands now, I can make by best attempt at an I.D. Then someone can come along and verify or affect that I.D., by suggesting another. If I or another person agrees or suggests the same…it becomes research grade!
No one might be right!

What or who guarantees what I’m trying to I.D., to the best of my ability, … is indisputably correct?

How would changing the terminology from “suggesting” to “known” change that?
Are you suggesting that some users get to be the final arbiter of what an ID is, regardless of community ID?

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That is the main thing about citizen science and citizen science based initiatives like iNaturalist: it is gathered and some times confirmed by non-professionals.

I know there are a lot of professional taxonomists using iNaturalist (same for zoologists, botanists enthomologists, etc etc). But most of the times, your observations will be confirmed by a non-professional.

iNaturalist “shields” itself from bad indentifications by requiring a consensus: if the majority of poeple don’t agree with your ID, it won’t become research grade.

The problem with that is that the observer (lets say you) can miss-identify the observed organism in the first place. From this situations, 2 things can occur:
#1 - A watchfull identifier notices the miss identification and corrects it. If another identifier agrees with the first identifier, it reaches research grade with a correct identification.
#2 - The identifier agrees with your miss-identification (either because he/she is simply agreeing with everything - yes, it happes… - or because he/she consciously agrees with your bad miss-identification), and it reaches research grade with a wrong ID. In this case, we just hope someone finds it and does what is described in point #1

To sum it all, you can’t assume everything here will be indisputably correct. You can assume that it will be the closest to correct as it can, given that people follow a good ID policy

(sorry for the long answer and for some possible typos, english is not my native language)


Nice in theory, but the truth is that nothing is ever really “known” fully. Even by experts, even by DNA barcoding, any identification is really just our best interpretation of currently available data and research. Sometimes that data is unclear, and sometimes it is very messy, and taxonomy is always liable to change as more data is uncovered. Ten years ago, how many of us would say that we “know” what a common dandelion is? How many of us would be so brave to make that claim today?


That is one reason why I see other people trawling back thru a particular taxon, to confirm that the IDs are correct.


It’s not about changing the terminology. It’s about being able to put a definitive end to the suggestion.
A ‘suggestion’ is just that, a suggestion, nothing more. ( so in that case a terminology ‘add-on’ like ‘Known’ would be more final).
A known…is something I can say is most probably definitive.
I expect it to be made by a Curator with credentials…not Joe Blow, unless they definitively know.
A final arbiter…no.
If they know the community is wrong…then I would like to know that.
I just want to know to the best of my and Inat’s ability that my observation is tagged correctly.

Ah, I see. Well, as @joaolemoslima pointed out, this isn’t quite the way iNat works.
That sounds more like submitting directly to a specific authority, e.g, contacting a museum, a particular researcher, a university dept (e.g. an entomology department), an author, etc. (and as @psyllidhipster pointed out, even they don’t always know definitively).

If you suspect the community ID is wrong, you can tag people in a comment on the observation or post a link to the observation here in the forum (probably the better option, as IDers are busy and some don’t appreciate being tagged).


speaking as a Curator. and as someone with zero formal credentials (still working on that Bachelor’s degree):

I think there are two misunderstandings here.

First, a Curator is not granted any special ID privileges. In fact, some of the most respected and prolific identifiers are not Curators, despite their having credentials and proven expertise.
This is deliberate. There are many, many places in the scientific world where formal credentials decide who is allowed to take part. I, for one, am extremely grateful for the opportunity iNat provides me to participate in science and contribute to research. Its accepting community has encouraged me since the beginning and it is because of the support and opportunities i have had here that I have decided to pursue a career in botany and ecology.

Second, I think you may be assuming that the IDs on iNaturalist are, overall, not accurate. There are certainly some problematic areas where we could use a lot of help from specialists. But the staff has investigated the accuracy of iNat IDs and have found that the rate is comparable to many professional collections. It does vary by taxon, of course.


There are nature recoding sites that have verification systems like the one you are suggesting. The main problem with them is that there just aren’t enough verifiers who have the time time and expertise to deal promptly with the daily flood of new observations. So the inevitable result is that a huge backlog is created that just grows and grows. Even common, easy to ID species can sit around for literally years because there is no one available to cover a particular region. A Community Identification system isn’t perfect either - but at least it significantly increases the chances that someone will look at your observations and provide some kind of feedback fairly promptly.

Personally, it has never concerned me that my iNat observations aren’t verified. By itself, a verification is worthless to me if I can’t understand exactly how the identification was made. I always feel that I should be able to confirm the identification for myself, otherwise I won’t learn anything from it. Because that’s the main reason I use sites like iNat - to share knowledge, and learn. As far as I’m concerned, verification is a downstream issue for data consumers to worry about and I wouldn’t expect them to wholly rely on the IDs suggested by the data provider.


I am Joe Blow. This is exactly how I become an expert on any given species, whether or not credentials become attached to me.


Thank you all.
This has put the whole iNat experience, for me, into a place of better understanding.
Now that I understand how things work in relation to this and how others look at it…
I will adjust.

I highly appreciate suggestions\verifications by the way. It makes being part of iNat a lot more interesting.
Everyone so far has been clear and helpful.

Thanks for your time!


I just want to get things right as I learn about nature.
Obviously being wrong is not wrong, and is a good way to learn.

I am Joe Blow too.


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