What is a ‘Verifiable Observation’ and how does it reach ‘Research Grade’?

For those members who are new to iNaturalist, below is a short primer on some terminology you will encounter when uploading and identifying observations.

This is intended as a brief introduction (with some broad generalizations). More detailed information can be found on the Help page and in the iNatForum:

Data Sharing -

Observations uploaded to iNaturalist that reach ‘Research Grade’ are shared with various partners including the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) (https://www.ala.org.au/about-ala/). As such it is important that any records being shared are of the highest quality. The process below shows how iNaturalist works to ensure accuracy in their dataset.

‘Verifiable Observation’ -

This status is applied to any observation that is uploaded that contains a valid date, a location, has photo or sound, and isn’t of a captive/cultivate organism. Without any one of these vital pieces of information, an observation cannot reach Research Grade and is not shared with the ALA. However, such observations can still be uploaded to iNaturalist, and they will have a ‘Casual’ status.

‘Needs ID’ -

Observations that are ‘Verifiable’ begin life with ‘Needs ID’ status. From here the iNat community of experts and knowledgeable people can assist in identifying the organism. If enough people agree, the observation can reach a ‘Research Grade’ status.

‘Research Grade’ -

This status is achieved when a ‘Verifiable Observation’ has been reviewed and the community is in agreement on the ID. The observation will now be shared with the ALA and other iNat partners.

Data Accuracy -

Having an observation reach ‘Research Grade’ comes with a sense of achievement. However, it is not necessary, and not always appropriate, for an observations to reach a ‘Research Grade’. Many organisms simply cannot be identified to species with photographs alone and pushing these to ‘Research Grade’ may only result in inaccurate records being included in the ALA and other databases. Learn to be comfortable with ‘Needs ID’ and be patient. New experts and knowledgeable users join iNat regularly. I have had observations IDed by an expert after more than a year at ‘Needs ID’.

Confirming IDs -

A minimum of two agreeing IDs are required to reach ‘Research Grade’. The intent is that two experts or knowledgeable people must review the observation before it can become ‘Research Grade’. When confirming IDs using the ‘Agree’ button (particularly on your own observations), consider your own knowledge of the particular taxon. An identification confirms that you can confidently identify the organism yourself compared to any possible lookalikes.

There are a few reasons that an observation may stay at ‘Needs ID’:

  • There may not be enough experts on that particular taxon currently using iNat
  • It may not be possible to ID to species from photos for this organism
  • Diagnostic features are not visible in the photos.

Photo Quality -

Pretty photos are great, but iNat is not concerned with your photography skills. Only that the photos provide the necessary evidence to help the community achieve a consensus on the identification. If you are not familiar with the species you are observing, taking photos of each feature of the organism can assist the community in identifying it.

Some Examples -

Poor quality photos can still be useful - My first photo of a Wedge-tailed Eagle was blurry and heavily cropped, but the tail shape is diagnostic for this bird at this location, so it was still able to reach ‘Research Grade’: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/19191487

Unable to ID to species from photos – This Raven from Belair National Park is still identified only to Genus because these are difficult to ID to species even with good photos: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/18534282 (See “The Trouble with Ravens”: http://birdlife.org.au/australian-birdlife/detail/the-trouble-with-ravens).

Even experts have their limits without a specimen to assess – With clear (but insufficient) photos this unusual Robberfly could only be IDed to Genus at best: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/20723481

Hopefully the above has provided a little insight as to how observations are assessed. Any questions about this or other aspects of how iNaturalist works, please ask in the comments section below.

Publicado el 06 de agosto de 2019 a las 07:34 AM por cobaltducks cobaltducks


It's probably worth adding that an observation that can't be identified to species can still make Research Grade, by verifying that it is "as good as it can be", from the "Data Quality Assessment" section. This applies to organisms that simply can't be reliably identified from a photo (like many sea sponges, which require microscopic analysis).

I assume that for resources like the ALA, these observations will then be shared at whatever level the organism is identified at (usually genus)

Anotado por mtank hace casi 5 años

Thanks Matt (@mtank), that's a good point. Many Fungi would probably fall into that category too.

Anotado por cobaltducks hace casi 5 años

How does one solicit confirmations or corrections on sightings to become research grade project? Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch is a pollinator support project using mainly native plants & im trying to achieve a project status. Very few responses from experts. Couldn’t you add a tab showing the number of accepted IDs? And a tab to request participants to respond?

Anotado por vainthebriarpatch hace cerca de un año

ALA uploads both Needs ID and Research Grade observations. Only Casual observations are not downloaded into the ALA.

Anotado por thylacoleo_ hace 7 meses

Indeed they do @thylacoleo_, thanks for the info update.

Anotado por cobaltducks hace 7 meses

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