Why is this Observation Casual/Needs ID/Research Grade? - "Official" Topic

Thank you for the step-by-step instructions. There is one observation that somehow two people voted could still be improved even though the community ID is already at species. I put my one countervote, and @ commented the two.


Ok, I tried to skim and check if a similar question has been asked before. I didn’t see one, but it’s a long thread and hard to follow at times. Feel free to link to a specific post in the thread if my question has already been answered.

Please see this observation. I identified the caterpillar to genus. Once others confirmed the genus ID, I clicked “No, it’s as good as it can be” because it is my understanding that there are a number of Datana spp. caterpillars with orange “necks” that occur in GA that cannot be reliably separated. Of course, this vote moved the observation to RG, but when someone else added a species-specific ID, that became the observation ID (still at RG).

I could of course add a disagreeing ID back at the genus level to bump the observation ID back to genus. I’m bringing this up not because I disagree with the ID, but because this seems like a loophole where an observation can reach RG with a consensus of one.


A loophole if it’s misused. If the IDer thinks the community taxon can be improved, they should counter your vote. If you are pretty sure it can’t, you should bump it to genus. If you’re not sure, you can just remove your vote.


Agreed, but my reason for bringing this up is not because I cannot move it back to genus if I so desire. It’s really easy for me to miss notifications, so if I don’t notice (as I didn’t for this observations for several months after the species-level ID), it’s hard for me to take corrective action.

The observation should either stay RG with the genus-level ID displayed, forcing the species-level IDer to counter my DQA vote to get their ID displayed -or- a species level ID could possibly automatically add a DQA vote. However, the problem with the latter is a DQA vote stays even when the observation’s ID level has changed (though that of course is a problem even if the species-level IDer manually counters my vote).

(and @anneclewis )
there was a very long thread on the issue some time ago: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/wild-american-bison-are-captive/24143
I’m not aware of the current state of the situation, but you can check out the thread.
(apologies if this has been posted before!)

I can’t offer much of a short-term solution, but I will note that eventually notifications will be revamped, which should make it easier for you to keep track of your notifications.

The problem with a single ID going to research grade has been noted before in this bug report (and even earlier in the Google Group), and also there is an existing feature request to better separate the observation taxon from the community taxon.


Thanks! No solution needed, especially since there are corrective actions that I can easily take for this observation. It was more of a “just so you’re aware”.

I did not realize that the observation taxon and the community taxon are separate (or at least not in the way explained by this post), so that is helpful information!

Has there ever been a feature request to have votes for “can Community Taxon still be confirmed or improved?” specific to a taxon level rather than the observation overall?

I think the closest to what you’re suggesting is this one. There are also (at least) two other requests related to votes for “can be improved”, here and here.

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Feel free to message or tag me if you need an extra vote on one of those, or on something that’s been erroneously voted captive.

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As a short term fix, what I would probably do on an observation if that happened is comment with your reasoning why it should stay at genus and @ the person. I feel like most active people would, hopefully, respond to the note.

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It’s all been fixed, that was months ago.

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I’m confused by some of the things I’ve been seeing with sound observations getting stuck as casual.

I noticed that one of my recent sound observations was marked as having no evidence of the organism’s presence. While I can hear the sound on my device, I could maybe understand someone being unable to hear it. Except I got curious, and looked up “casual” observations with sound. I’ve found at least a couple of observations that are clearly audible but were still marked as “no evidence of organism” for some reason. What’s going on with this?

Meanwhile, I also noticed some observations (not by me) that were marked as captive and it didn’t make sense to me. After asking a couple of people who had marked them as such, it seems like this was an accident, and I wonder how many other observations are stuck as casual because of this. This seems to happen mainly with sound observations and I wonder why! Is it some kind of glitch/bug?

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I have no knowledge of specific observations, but if a sound file didn’t have evidence of the organism the observer IDed as, it would be reasonable for an IDer to tick “no evidence of organism” even if they can hear the sound.

I think with sounds it can be very difficult, because a given sound could be produced by many organisms, including anything moving in the wind. So if an observer can definitely say “I know it isn’t that” they may not be able to provide any other ID, and just tick no evidence. With a picture, it’s almost always possible to provide some other ID.

Two of the ones I saw (made by others) had clear bird sounds in them.

I’m confused as to what the rules are now. If someone posts a picture of a spider and someone disagrees with the ID, or if the picture isn’t clear enough to ID to species level, should it also get marked as “no evidence”? I usually see people simply disagreeing with, say, the observer’s species-level ID and suggesting something broader, for example.

I understand the concerns that a sound might not really be made by a bird, but this is also true of photo observations, no? To use the blurry spider picture example, it could just be a spider-shaped shadow or mold stain, it could be a toy someone stuck to the wall, etc. Except most people don’t automatically assume that this is the case and that the observer is trying to game the system.

If sound observations can never be really “proof” of an organism’s presence, why allow them to become research grade and not automatically mark them as casual, similar to observations with no evidence?

Maybe the guidelines just aren’t clear on what to do with sound recordings and their worth, maybe I’m missing something, but I just find this confusing and applying very different standards to similar scenarios (just in different media)

I’m definitely not saying that sound observations provide no proof in general. There’s lot of good quality IDable sound recordings on iNat. If there are clear birds sounds, they shouldn’t be downvoted for evidence.

What I am saying is that with lower quality sound recordings, it’s possible that there is no audible evidence of a particular organism in the recording. If that’s the case (there’s nothing someone can identify as a living organism), then giving a thumbs down for Evidence is reasonable.

With a photo, there’s usually evidence for some kind of organism - even a really blurry photo can often be IDed as something broad (plant, bird), so it wouldn’t be appropriate to downvote Evidence. But with low quality sound recordings, it may be the case that there is no IDable evidence that the sound was produced by any living organism (like ice squealing, etc).

One other reason that this can happen with sound recordings is if people upload a “blank” observation to record the time and place and add a sound file later. Some IDers might have ticked “no evidence” (though this is unnecessary since a blank/empty observation is already not verifiable). If the observer then later added a sound file manually, they may not have noticed the downvote of evidence.

I’m going to hope the sounds were uploaded later, then. I can believe that my obs doesn’t have the most obvious sound, but the ones I saw from other users had clear bird sounds and were not particularly low quality.

I think this is the result of two things.

The first is sampling bias. If I search through casual-grade photo observations, they are awash with correctly-labeled “captive/cultivated” observations. So it may take me a while to find an observation with an incorrect DQA (and even longer to find an incorrect DQA not associated with the “organism is wild” field). That doesn’t mean there are fewer incorrect DQAs for photos compared to audio, it just means you have to sort through more correct DQAs to find them.

The second is audio is reviewed less frequently than photos. So once an incorrect DQA is added, it may never be corrected unless the observer themself counters the vote. Only a few identifiers review casual-grade photo observations (mostly to provide IDs for captive/cultivated organisms), but I bet even fewer review casual-grade audio observations.

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Have you asked any of the people who voted?


Which issue are you referring to? And yes, I’ve tried asking questions.

Regarding the captive/cultivated field, it seems like it’s a frequent misclick, including from observers themselves. Everyone I asked responded with something along those lines. My best guess is something about the mobile app interface or some browsers, maybe!

Good point about reviewing DQAs and incorrectly marked ones not being seen as often! I hadn’t considered the review aspect, just the initial votes.