Why not empower recognised experts?

I really don’t like this sentiment. In my experience, many experts on here and “irl” get a lot wrong (and this is ok!) whereas amateurs come through. I am confident I’m one of the better botanists within my locality (except with regard to Poales or mosses) and I like iNaturalist because it’s essentially an even playing field and I can converse with experts.

If I were disempowered or had features taken away, I would just leave.


Please don’t do this. It’s tempting to automatically agree with an expert, but even experts make mistakes! I absolutely correct Nathan on his Anisophyllum IDs when I think he has made a mistake. And when I’m at the herbarium I have the chutzpah to correct the mistaken IDs of legendary Israeli botanists – because, believe me, despite their decades of experience, they make/made mistakes all the time.


and to go a step further, I think that treating the opinions of experts as gospel, rather than merely a theory that is likely to be true, is completely contradictory to the spirit of science.


Ok. What do you take as a valid source to base any ID on?

Many people here will use a field guide.
Lets take the UK Hoverflies field guide, written by Roger Morris.
Most identifications on UK Hoverflies will be made using his field guide.
If Roger Morris was active here would you double check all his IDs against his own words before confirming?

Using a field guide (or a key) is just deferring to an expert in a different form.

Or do you have at least two sources for every identification you make?

yes, I would.
edit: when I’m checking the IDs of these legendary Israeli botanists… I am often using the guides they themselves wrote.

Yes: keys/guides, which is the cumulative work of experts; my own experience and eyes; range data provided by iNat and GBIF, at minimum.


I think, again, this is partly experience of another taxa and another location perhaps.

In Diptera, if I do not do this, the IDs which are most likely to be accurate languish in obscurity, the AI cannot learn from them and the GBIF dataset does not include them…

Meanwhile incorrect blind agreements made by users with limited or no experience… to original IDs made by identifiers with limited or no experience reign supreme… which increases the inaccuracy of the AI… and pollutes the final dataset…discouraging others with expertise from joining … increasing the inaccuracy, in a vicious cycle…

In any case though, I would also rather see another way of tackling it. Its totally counterintuitive - thats why I started this thread…and the parallel one about gamifying accuracy…


Ok, wow. Well you are lucky you have two sources in botany!

Lets take other families in Diptera.
Of the other 100 or whatever families in the UK, hoverflies is the only one with a field guide.
Most of the rest of the information is scattered, difficult to find or access, let alone fully understand as an amateur. Keys might not exist, might be inaccessible or out of date in comparison with the knowledge the specialist has. Most of the time, there isn’t a simple way to double check… unless you are one of the specialists…or you want to put ludicrous amounts of research into each ID.

This leaves me with the choice mentioned in the other post

  • leave ID to languish
  • or try and proportionately increase accuracy of AI and dataset for everyones benefit

In UK Diptera, I certainly wouldn’t be able to trust any range data provided by iNat, without first checking to see if the data had been verified…by one of the experts…the IDs also most likely wouldnt be included in the range data(?), if someone didn’t blindly second the expert in the first place…

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I do see your point, though I still disagree. I wish that these experts would collate and publish resources for others to use and verify. I think it would solve a lot of problems if more information were available to the public, and not only locked up in the brains and ivory towers of academics.


I can identify with feeling frustrated on the lack of easily accessible, accurate info about tachinids. My goal is to improve the existing observations in iNat how I can by annotating the tachinid eggs and pupae I come across for life stage. Getting a species ID can be like finding Eldorado. However, experts from other countries can often get adult Tachinids to the correct family if not genus.


If the ability to download the identifications of individual users were possible, this still might be an issue, but there would be a really good workaround. As is, it is essentially impossible to separate expert IDs from novice IDs. I would like to see the ability to sort by the name of an identifier (annotations for specimens too), but I wouldn’t know who to contact.

I agree with @aspidoscelis, but think that if the ability to download user identifications were implemented, there wouldn’t be as much need to get violently upset about differences of opinion in taxonomy. There’s still the potential for hostility, but at least it’s not the end all, be all if you want the data. In those situations, it’s of coarse better if a single name can be reached so that an observation can reach “research grade” (I like the term “community reviewed” better).

Ultimately, I view this as a patch to the root problems which need to be worked on more, but it is a patch that would at least make data quality sorting possible. It’s a patch I’ve wanted for well over a year now (probably a few years now actually) and I think its something that iNaturalist desperately needs for researchers as a whole to see it as a valuable tool.


We know taxonomy isn’t simple. Our minds was either/or answers, but nature has no interesting in making us happy. Therefore, I have made ways to deal with taxonomic difficulties.

Is the Blackberry That Ate the Pacific Northwest Rubus armeniacus or R. bifrons? A lot of people are certain, but the answer depends on your taxonomic opinion of the relationship between these names. So I just “agree” to either one. If there are conflicts or questions I explain, but I figure researchers will have to look up both names if they want all the records.

In Sedum section Gormania, the taxonomy has been seriously revised and iNaturalist isn’t rushing to change. (The Jepson treatment is in my computer now for editing and may be posted soon; then iNaturalist will update, I hope.) So some Sedum I don’t identify at all. Some I identify by the current iNaturalist name and write a note saying what its new name is. Some I identify as “Sedum” and briefly explain the problem. Probably frustrating for the photographer and certainly frustrating for me, but taxonomy is like that.

So, there are, I think, ways to use the current system to express taxonomic disagreements in iNaturalist.


I switched to plants mainly because I love doing taxonomy but changes in North American bird taxonomy had come down to “Do we split or lump this group based on variation we all know about?” The plant questions run deeper.


To be clear, my thoughts around “disempowering” newcomers were really with those who literally just signed up. They have less than 100 obs in a taxa… and no ID experience… and start adding 10s or 100s of species level IDs in taxa where its not possible, without realising the time it can take others to correct, or the impact this might have on the AI / dataset.

So when I said disempowering… I meant more limiting their powers until they understand the power they are being attributed.

The forum has basic levels of trust…why wouldn’t we have that with identification?

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That way some real experts will never be at the same “level” as other users, there’re many of them who don’t upload any observations at all.

I’m not saying they need to upload observations per se…

I’m literally just on about an implementation akin to the forum intro.
Even just the smallest intervention possible to explain the basics to users on arrival.
A tutorial, a note, a popup, an email. How does it work with new users at present?

As it notes on the Discourse link mentioned by @bouteloua in the other thread, this is about :-
“Sandboxing new users in your community so that they cannot accidentally hurt themselves, or other users while they are learning what to do.”

I agree, more and more popups and tutorials, probably more is needed not to get new users separated in any way, but to make clear for them what iNat is about, probably having each new member reead through tutorial, more complicated than one we have today for the app, with links to forum and popular questions.


The great thing about iNaturalist data isn’t that it’s always correctly identified (it may not be) but that (1) there’s lots of it and (2) it’s verifiable. It may or may not be right, but if you need to know, you can find out. That’s really valuable.


You can see what new app users view here https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/guiding-new-users-without-scaring-them-off/2242/5?u=bouteloua


Ok, good to see, thanks!
Its a bit difficult for me to imagine, as I don’t use the app. Will have to download when I get my phone fixed :) I know trying to help my mum to use it remotely this last month, she has struggled a bit - especially when I tried to explain about things like withdrawing an ID in order to let a new ID take precedence.

I think withdrawing/agreeing is one of the crucial aspects to help explain, as people either leave their original ID incorrect without realising the impact, or they blindly agree without knowledge of ID or of identifier ( new users might even expect identifiers to be experts… without realising how iNaturalist works ).

A simple solution to this though could also just be having a withdraw button visible on ID itself in same way agree button is. Even then though, my mum struggles to understand the bigger picture.

I’m really enjoying seeing the pointers in the forum these last days - popups telling me not to limit conversation to only one person… not to post too many times in succession, etc…
I think this is the kind of thing that could really help outside the forums with guiding new users.

I can’t imagine many website users clicking through the links on the email.


This is what new web users view when they first log in. I’ve updated the link I sent above with this screenshot:

I agree onboarding could be a bit more hand-holdy. Feel free to submit some ideas as feature requests.