A common issue brought up on the forum is an observation which looks like it meets the criteria for a certain data quality grade (i.e. Casual, Needs ID, or Research Grade), but iNaturalist does not label the observation as having that grade. While this is sometimes caused by a software bug, it is usually due to other reasons. This tutorial goes over what to check before filing a bug report.
To start sleuthing, first scroll down the observation’s page until you reach the Data Quality Assessment (DQA):
One the left you will see the observation’s current data quality grade, and below that the various Research Grade qualifications. Any member of the community can vote on the qualifications with the thumbs up or thumbs down icons.
On the right is an explainer detailing why the observation has its current data quality grade. In the example above, you’ll see that this particular observation is lacking a community agreement on the ID and therefore cannot be Research Grade. More often than not, you will find your answer here - look for the matching icons on the left- and right-hand sides.
Perhaps the most common reason an otherwise worthy observation is not labeled Research Grade is due to this:
Someone has voted that the Community Taxon can still be improved. This is often due to the voter misunderstanding its purpose. In situations like this, “No, it’s as good as it can be” votes can balance out the “Yes” votes and make the observation Research Grade, but it’s often best to also comment on the observation and ask the voter why they voted that way. Clicking on the number next to a vote will show you who voted that way:
If the Data Quality Assessment section looks good, then it’s possible the observation was not “reindexed” properly, and the system has not registered its true current data quality state. When a part of an observation changes, like its ID, a DQA vote, someone faving it, iNaturalist reindexes the observation to reflect the change. However, this sometimes doesn’t happen due to a glitch or a bug. You can force an observation to be reindexed by voting in the DQA or faving the observation. Give it a few seconds and the observation’s data quality grade might change to an accurate one.
Please make sure to retract any vote or fave you don’t mean to keep.
Another common cause that an observation has not attained Research Grade is that the observer has opted out of Community Taxon. This means that the observation Wil be labeled at the top with the observer’s ID and not the community’s ID. Take a look at the Community Taxon section of the observation. If the user is has opted out of the Community Taxon, you will see that here:
In situations like this, the observation will not become Research Grade unless the observer’s ID matches the Community Taxon.
If none of the above situations fit the observation in question, the issue may be a software bug, so please file a Bug Report for the observation.