Why not empower recognised experts?

Yes! Not hopeless!
Its significantly better this year than last year in Diptera.

In terms of specialists, inputting for UK (and beyond) we have input from:-
Chris Raper (Chrisrap) - UK Tachinidae recording scheme
Darwyn Summers (Rainieria) - European Micropezidae and Psilidae recording scheme
Ian Andrews (Ophrys) - UK Heleomyzidae recording scheme, Syrphidae and general Diptera
IainMacg - Lonchaeidae
Phycus - Stratiomyiidae.
Myelaphus - Asilidae.
Probably others I have not encountered yet…

For me… with the specialists who are actually running national or European recording schemes as some of the above…and are already gatekeepers for the taxa on other databases…I just think it seems nuts that their IDs need to be seconded.

+Rightly or wrongly, with the national recording scheme leaders at least, I will bypass the current system with a blind ID to strengthen their IDs where necessary. If we want the AI to learn, pick up the data and be fine tuned by their expertise… then doesn’t this need to happen @bouteloua ? This is not only about “arbitrary green labels” and GBIF …

As @upopa_epops said, this field is probably one of the hardest there is. It’s very often too complex for the general public to be involved in ID at species level. That’s just reality.

Also to note, of the people above, this only gives us specialists for 8 or so of the 130 families in Diptera globally. So, IMO it certainly makes sense to cherish and empower folks like this and support the time they put in, in any way possible. The more we do, the more likely they will remain active, and encourage other specialists from the field to join…the more the AI will gain accuracy, and the more us amateurs can learn from the pros.

That’s exactly what I’m saying–don’t force them to argue over the right answer!

If the system allows one answer and there are different viewpoints, people are constantly pitted against each other. And when science is involved, there should be different viewpoints; if everyone agrees, you’re done doing science and can move on to something else.

As a birder I’m used to using an official “correct” taxonomy but having opinions about how it’s incorrect and hoping that new research, or review of the current research, will lead to the official taxonomy being corrected. Every birder knows that the current taxonomy isn’t permanent and than it can and will change frequently, and has disagreements with it, but nevertheless we all use the same taxonomy on eBird, in our informal communications, etc. because it gives stability and makes communication easier.

I realize most taxa have much less formalized taxonomy, but that’s the context that I approach iNat from. Even if you disagree with the consensus taxonomy, you still use it because it makes everyone’s life easier. Or if you want to be able to filter things a different way, you can use projects or observation fields.


As you might guess from my comments above, I take the birding world’s official lists to be an indication that bird taxonomy is basically over. :-)

Yes, I know there is still room for some disagreement and change, but compared to plants, insects, or fungi we’re talking about a very low rate of disagreement per species and a very small number of species. Personally, I still think official lists are a fundamentally bad idea, but if the potential scope for disagreement is low you can kind of get away with it.

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Hmm, the current CV system uses obs with a community ID rather than obs with RG status. But I don’t know the specifics of that. If an observer posts an observation with the ID “Diptera” and an identifier IDs it as Lucilia sericata, the observation will now have a community ID of Diptera, while the observation ID is L. sericata. Which does the CV use?

Passionate naturalists can be quite motivated to learn this stuff once they know it’s possible. Absolutely most observers won’t, but just a couple interested can help a lot.

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The site’s views on implementing any kind of parallel or ‘choose your own taxonomy’ are pretty clearly laid out here : https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/help#taxonomydisagree

I don’t see that changing.

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Yes, I’m aware of that, I’m just continuing to hope that the answer is not simply, “iNaturalist is broken and we will never consider fixing it.” Consider the option I’ve mentioned above.

Put a toggle switch somewhere that would allow a user to input any name as an ID. Translate that name to the currently accepted name. The necessary functionality already exists, it’s what iNaturalist does every time the accepted name list changes.

Put another toggle switch somewhere that would allow a user to show taxa by the “identified as” name rather than the accepted name, and a control allowing a user to specify whose IDs are shown. All that is needed here is the ability to look up observations via identification fields other than the current community ID. All the parts already exist, and you can use them now–you would just have to create your own UI to interact with the API in order to do it in anything beyond a very crude and cumbersome fashion. So it would just require a couple of new UI elements on top of the existing parts.

With the exception of turning off the “force accepted name use” widget, I think all of this is stuff that someone who knows how to do UI development could do right now without changing anything in iNaturalist. And remember, there is already a widget to convert non-accepted names to accepted names! iNaturalist already knows how to deal with, and does deal with, precisely that scenario.

What all that means is that existing taxonomic functionality could be left unchanged. It’s “let users interact with the existing parts in a more nuanced and flexible way”, not “get rid of or change the function of the existing parts”. Even if we are totally inflexible about maintaining the existing functionality–that’s fine, we don’t have to!

Ah right… yes, maybe this is a misunderstanding on my part then…

Definitely… they just need the experts to help them learn! ;)

I’m really enjoying learning how to vaguely differentiate Sarcophaga at the moment through the UK Sarcophagidae recording group. For me as an amateur, this is exceptionally complex stuff to try to tackle - even expert dipterists probably won’t go to subgenus from photos …let alone species level IDs.

The impression I get, is that Daniel Whitmore, the scheme leader, is the only one - in UK networks at least - with sufficient knowledge of the group to accurately ID to species from photos alone. I imagine, a combination of many years of experience… personal research …as well as direct access to publications and actual specimen collections… that your average Joe simply won’t have.
Passionate amateurs will only get the community so far I think, in the more complex families like this.

Given the breadth and depth needed within fields like Diptera and Hymenoptera …and to try and tackle this at the global scale in which iNaturalist operates… If the AI is ever intended to go reliably to species in these fields, it will need all the expertise it can get.


From personal experience I have found assigning observations to projects can be a way to attract more focused attention to them.
Some experts scan a favorite project.

I like Orthoptera (Katydids etc.)but I’m not at all expert in them, but if I come across one I put it in the project “Orthoptera.” Even if I can’t identify it myself I’ve made it easier for someone else to notice.

In the future I hope iNat will have improved navigation for finding applicable projects.


Yes! I have also wondered about siphoning stuff off into projects …definitely an option for dealing with some aspects of this debate.


Yes, eventually I want to evaluate which of my observations are still “orphaned” and find them a home in a relevant project.
But most recently I’ve been hunting mites as found on dragonflies, harvesters, and all matter of critters. All the best!

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Projects are particularly useful for things that don’t neatly fit the taxonomic system or current filtering options in general. For example leafminers, galls, feathers, etc.


This. Amen.


I think the low response rate is a side effect of the notification system badly needing a rework


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…