Why do some observation receive plenty of agreeing IDs?

I don’t know if someone already mentioned this, but at the bottom of the observation there is this option
“Based on the evidence, can the Community Taxon still be confirmed or improved?”
Some people press “yes” without knowing what it actually does. There are some cases, if you then enter two or more IDs, the observation cannot reach research grade and the observation stays in “needs ID”. People going through “needs ID” often add more IDs to it (without looking at the bottom of the observation) and so many IDs accumulate on such observations.


and the ones who reject Community ID, so taxon specialists keep adding - why does it STILL need another one?!

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Because often the rejection of community ID is overlooked… at least happens to me often and then I only figure it out when I wonder why it is not RG… but as I already put my ID I then just leave it as is… But would love to be able to filter those out beforehand actually

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I would like - Rejects CID to be a banner across the top. Like Casual or Research Grade. Up top where we can’t miss it.


When I started with inaturalist I did not see that I could place a faforite vote, but I recognized that some postings got more identical IDs. Therefore I guessed placing another identical ID may be a way to express that this specimen is somewhat special or/and the photo is stunning. Meanwhile I have learned a lot more and do rather often give a favorite instead , but for special specimen which stay close to my heart I do place an additional ID, hence trying to avoid “over-IDing”. Lately I got the impression, that some colleagues are so fond of increasing their count of IDs, while loosing sometimes the critical eye just to increase the ID count. Thus a large score of IDs must not necessarily reflect how many first valuable and great IDs have been made by a person. Still it is a good feeling if more persons and especially experts do ID my specimen and having two persons IDing your specimen gives me a kind of the right track feeling. But IDing should not be a race to be the topidentifyer for a certain specimen.


I definitely agree having two-three real-life experts iding the same specimen is wonderful, and those multiple ids is the reason I almost don’t id birds, every one of them gets 5+ new notifications, and then I find something wrongly ided by 5 people, do they really know the species if they added 5000 ids on it? And you’re right, people definitely use ids as a replacement of favourite, that’s kind of a separate topic with how slow favourites page on iNat is, it is justified.


To get some weight to my point, just today I found a RG observation of a goose, with 5 ids, all wrong. Now it will take lots of other iders to reid it, without licking on “can be improved” it’s not even changing RG status. If you want to do add an id, any # id, please learn the thing.

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but to be fair - this is not something I do run into regularly. On occasion I found these as well, but in those cases, if I tag the IDers, most will react and at least retract their false ID, especially if I explain why it is wrong. If that does not help, I tag other IDers of the taxa, which will then usually do the trick.

But of course I agree, that someone that does agree with an ID should be fairly sure it is correct, and not just click agree.


I do think that a significant portion of the observations with many ID’s, are a result of “reflexive ID’s”. But not all of them. Some of them also have ID’s that seem to have had thought put into them. I’ve seen examples of both and it is hard to know at a glance what is going on in people’s heads, but sometimes I see strong evidence pointing one way or the other.

For myself personally, I frequently ID with observations that have 2 or more ID’s in agreement, when I’m going through lists of plants to research those plants, and I see a plant that I am experienced in IDing. I do think that, when the ID’s are thoughtful and informed, 3 ID’s is better than 2. And, if I’m adding an informed ID to a perhaps more casual ID + agree, then I will also be adding something.

Also…when I’m trying to learn a new taxon, I usually start by agreeing with existing ID’s. I’m not going to lend my voice towards ID on controversial / difficult / high-stakes observations until I’ve gotten comfortable with the basics, so usually I find 10 or more (sometimes much more) posts to agree with before I venture out into the “adding a 2nd ID to one with only 1 ID” zone.

I very much dislike though, when people casually agree with an ID on a species that they do not seem to have much knowledge about. I agree with the concerns @Marina_Gorbunova voiced, that it can result in bad ID’s that are hard to correct, especially because it’s frequent that the people who made the bad ID’s are no longer active on the site and so you can’t get them to voluntarily retract their ID’s the way @Ajott suggested.

It would be fine if people were really putting thought into ID, but there are a few cases where the ID has been so egregiously wrong that it is apparent they don’t. These cases are pretty uncommon, usually when there are 3-5 ID’s that are wrong, it is with easily-confused species where I could have easily made the same error (or worse) myself. But other times I see ones where it’s so off that reflexive agreeing without much thought or knowledge is the only real explanation.

Not really sure what could be done about this though.


This is not entirely true when you restrict your IDs to the area in which you are very familiar or species you are well qualified to ID at a glance no matter where it occurs. For example, I just got done uploading a Harold Moth, a moth that can’t possibly be confused with any other by somebody who knows that moth and its habits. Of the 640 Harold Moths observed in Michigan, 594 are from tunnels I pass by almost daily. There were perhaps a dozen observations today from around the world that needed an ID and I gave all the adults IDs in just a few minuets. If there were 500 of them that needed an ID I could easily do that too as quickly as I could hit the agree button (but for the adults only). There are many other examples like that, where hundreds of IDs from one IDer within that IDers region, where those hundreds of IDs could be brought to research level with no (or very few) mistakes. Blue Vervain, Eastern Skunk Cabbage, Common and Swamp milkweed species, etc., that can be accurately be ID’s at a glance are the ones I focus on the most. I figure if a citizen scientist can knock out these easy ones, it’s all the less the experts need to ID. But I suspect you are talking about spending that much time on the more difficult species such as sunflowers, flies and many moths.


Agreed. One of my pet projects are IDing Argiope spiders… some of them are the mist unmistakinable (argh, is this a word?) species I know and I often do not even need to see the full picture or know in which part of the world they were observed (e.g the north american Argiope aurantia… nothing else looks like it!). I can do hundreds in a day easily.

I am sure many IDers have species like this and it would be a shame to limit their output, especially when low amount of IDing is at least for certain taxa and regions a major frustration on the platform


unmistakable :slightly_smiling_face:


Close enough :laughing:. Thanks for the correction


As a professional end use of iNaturalist observations - for Red Listing, Conservation Assessments and Species Monitoring - on any download of data I pay special attention to two fields:

  • num_identification_agreements
  • num_identification_disagreements

These give the only assessment available on the site for reliability of an identification. It is not perfect, but short of a system of ranking identifiers by competence, or being able to download a verification that a particular specialist as made an identification, is as good as you are going to get.
So I fully support that if you open an observation and you are competent at verifying the ID, then you should even if it has dozens of IDs already.
The only other alternative validation that I can think of is to agree with the world experts and specialists “on a trust basis” - as in many cases among invertebrates (and some plants) there is often only a single person worldwide capable of making an ID below tribe [and when they contribute to IDs on iNaturalist, that is pure gold!].

In my group (African Proteaceae, https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/proteaceae-of-southern-africa & https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/cape-proteas-found-across-the-world), I identify everything, even those that have a dozen identifications already. Far more difficult to decide are those observations where the photo is so bad, or crucial features are missing (even from the most perfect photographs), as to how much to rely on jizz and gut feel and put an ID to a finer resolution than one feels comfortable with, simply because no one else will be able to do better.
What is disheartening though, is to have identified everything, and still have over 6000 Cape Proteaceae observations in the Needs ID bin. All it needs is a single agreement for Research Grade, but either other users are unable to verify the ID, or those that do dont have the time or inclination (or else there are so many other observations needing attention that these are relatively unimportant - but not to me).

And let us not get onto the issue of subspecies and varieties. iNat treats these abysmally. They are crucial for conservation and management, but treated as superfluous on the system (they dont feature on the AI, the identotron, compare tab on the ID tool, or in the species summaries). Even horticultural hybrids are recognized as “species”, and accorded far more recognition than these wild biological entities! And when one adds them to an observation, they often dont even trigger a Needs ID at family level!!!

All of this can be very frustrating for research. You visit iNaturalist, make all the identifications in your group, but when you download the data for your work, a large proportion are only identified at some higher level, or are not “research grade” because they they need a second ID (or several more IDs if there was a wrong ID initially). So why bother identifying them on iNaturalist? - leave them wrong, and download the data and make the IDs on the downloaded file. - at least then the IDs will be correct.
{or perhaps I should put in a Feature Request to include identifications by a particular identifier as a field when downloading data: - that would be really useful for research and conservation).
Here I speak on behalf of many specialists. Busy reviewing a taxon, they visit iNaturalist to see if there is anything interesting, they make IDs for all the observations in their taxon that are identifiable, but when they download the data the IDs are not what they made,and often still the prior incorrect ID - this is clearly source of frustration for many professionals using the site.
iNat needs to address this concern and need - lets face it: the funding and institutional support for the site comes from the end users.


To me, this pretty much summarises perfectly why one should not hesitate to keep adding additional IDs to observations one is comfortable IDing.

I also couldn’t agree more on the treatment of infraspecies.


My part of iNat is now haunted by a trail of IDs with my comment

supporting ssp / var

Since that is the workaround iNat forces on us.

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