Coming to terms with the term RESEARCH and RESEARCH GRADE

Definitions from Oxford Languages
1. the systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.

Seems to me that iNat Research Grade doesn’t really require any Research :
What is a ‘Verifiable Observation’ and how does it reach ‘Research Grade’? · iNaturalist.
So trying to come to terms with the number of Research Grade observations that don’t seem quite correct to me:

Starting at iSpot - this ID would have been agreed on iNat

then the only other possibly correctly named iSpot observation I can find
is by Vynbos -

So I have taken the liberty to photograph the pages from my copy of

Hopefully this will not infringe copyright

What do you think - the WHITE flower of the PINK or not enough evidence to make a firm call, or assume iNat is always right - no I can’t go with that.
@dejayM @miked @JoC

There are several things here, firstly the Ericas in South Africa are a very difficult group, I have briefly tried and found great difficulty with those.
So second question is what does iNat ‘reserch grade mean’? You have given some pointers to this.
I have been to a number of research conferences where some people have said all iNat data is rubbish (research grade or otherwise) or words to that effect and others have said research grade can be used for some purposes but should not be used for many other purposes and yet others have pointed out that some of the iNat data is very good and equivalent to any other good data.
Basically you need to carefully look at the data before using it, in some species groups and parts of the world it may be perfectly good and provides evidence that is impossible to get in other ways whereas in other cases it may be far from good quality and may not be a good idea to use it.
Many people have questioned the term ‘research grade’ but perhaps best to think of this as you having to do the research on the particular part of the data you want to use to see how good it is.

In the distant past, when involved in research, not Biology related, no data from other sources was research grade until it had been rigorously examined. It just saved you going out and getting it. A brief look at iNat did not suggest to me that research grade observations could be used in a wholesale manner, only that the site was more straight laced than iSpot.

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Research Grade on iNaturalist just means one opinion about the identity of the organism has got at least two more votes than any other opinions. There is currently a discussion in the iNaturalist forum about whether Research Grade is a good term to be using because it can be taken to mean there has been more verification than there actually has. There is a lot of support for setting a higher threshold, but also opposition from those fearing that taxonomic groups with few followers would never find three or more people willing to put a name to a picture.

I wouldn’t mind the term RG as just a name. The trouble is that Research Grade observations are exported to GBIF. So a school child posts a picture of a hoverfly and puts a wasp name on it, eight of his classmates give him an agreement just to be friendly, and you have a nonsense record sent off to a global dataset that will require seven disagreements to knock it back from Research Grade. And even then I’m not sure if it would necessarily be removed from GBIF.

Thanks Mike for both answers. Ted Oliver was always supportive when approached but was of the opinion that identifying Ericas from a photo was a bad idea.
Feel happier now that I was never induced to migrate with them - also note that Research Grade requires a location and I have heard, through the grapevine, that this has sadly resulted in an increase of plant poaching in RSA,

Thanks John, yes the link to GBIF has me concerned. The same applies to the South African Redlist which now links to iNat images.
Hopefully someone will sort this out.
Remembering that things posted on the internet (correct or incorrect) seem to be there forever.

I got into deep trouble when I first entered iNat. It quickly became apparent to me the RG was flawed, mostly by having a league for Top IDers.
I quietly challenged a few agree-ers some of whom admitted they knew NOTHING about the subject and gracefully withdrew their agreement.
I then took up the issue with two Curators who, apparently had not seen the trait. They were unhappy about my approach. One suggested that I leave iNat if I was not satisfied. Another suggested I should submit research to peers before I mention it again, I am now quite quiet in iNat!
INat is full of skewed RG Records. When, rarely, I research via GBIF I EXCLUDE iNat data (one click!)
Having writ all that though I am VERY proud of my RG records that have now been integrated (NOT accepted) by GBIF. Like Occurrence Detail 2518137469.
and Occurrence Detail 1948746448
and Occurrence Detail 3859036106
It takes a while for RGs to reach GBIF - I wait for this recent one Stigmidium ascophylli from Orkney, UK on November 13, 2022 at 02:09 PM by ðejay (Orkney). The first photo shows the mature receptacles of Channelled Wrack (Pelvetia canaliculata) During ... · iNaturalist
Those three records were submitted to iRecord, and all ‘returned’ as Out of Known Range or Microscopy Required
I have been known to withdraw the RG designation. This is easy, just add a Higher Tax ID and say why. Causes a mini stir!
The four above are also in iSpot of course

We (iSpotters) should not rubbish iNat (no-one is).
It has a wealth of excellent features and is far more useful to those who want World-expert opinion
Plenty of iSpotters are getting satisfaction in there
Take my Albugo lepigoni · iNaturalist where I am, like others, invited to add something to Wiki and where I am encouraged to add more information and, of course, where I have an illustrated entry in GBIF
I do not dwell there; if I run into difficulties with difficult subjects here I go there for a bit of additional support. I have stopped adding ‘common’ organism records

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All rather sad - there was such potential if well run -
Glad you gained recognition.
I just want to share my observations - so iSpot is all I need -
If you get a chance take a look at CASABIO which was set up by the Hermannia man - needs funding though.
An example link and what data he has collected

Interesting especially as it uses the same software that the first version of iSpot did and which we should have simply updated instead of moving to the current set of software (would have been much cheaper and easier). However as you note the big issue is funding as it costs a lot to maintain websites like this which is one of the main reasons people go with iNat rather than developing their own. In my view each country or group of countries should have their own system or systems which obay a standard set of conventions for data output but where they stay in control of their own data and way of doing things.

Agree - RSA has so many different databases (sites) and then there’s FaceBook which I sometimes think is a bit like iNat - pretty pictures and no brain guessology, has lots of followers who only need one key stroke to agree/like.
Am I being too harsh? Probably will never forget the nasty discord at the exodus which still remains in some iSpot comments.

National Treasures?
it seems, from the Web sometimes, that there are National or City versions of iNat especies-invasoras
Greater Poland, PL · iNaturalist - click some menu items
Ireland · iNaturalist (Contributers)
Scotland, GB · iNaturalist (Projects)
Google any Country - Iceland iNatulalist say - Iceland · iNaturalist
London iNaturalist
London iSpot
or iSpot Projects
see who and how much interest there is
Southern south america | Project | Chile | iSpot Nature

My mind hops from one thing to another.
Have put iNat on the back burner having passed on to researching FIRE DAISIES from the Peninsula.
Thought I might get some value from the SA Red List links to iNat but there is just too much ‘grey stuff’ - do they have a level above Research Grade that one could seek out?
This is also why I no longer go to GBIF; less stressful to simply Google original reports etc

Its interesting what you say about I Nat cause I used to use it a lot but the thing is that if you have correctly identified something people can just take it in or out of research grade regardless of weather they know how to identify it or not and a lot of people use the computer suggestions cause it makes it Easier to identify things on I naturalist rather than useing it for its main purpose which is to give the post an identification. I read somewhere on a I naturalist forum that it isnt for identifying something that’s what Seek is for. Seek is a computer that’s still learning but your observations train it to identify more things and sending things to i Nat from there helps if Seek isn’t familiar with a species. That doesn’t mean There arnt exsperts on i Nat though for example

There are some cooll things about i Nat though But I find that I tend to prefer I record most of the time since it’s quicker and the exsperts verify them then it goes off to the NBN atlas whereas on i Nat there’s so many posts it can take them a long time then it goes off if it’s reached research grade

I put most of my non-UK obs on iNat because so few people browse the global parts of iSpot - I try to do that once a week but sometimes of course that doesn’t happen.

Three things: One - using the AI offered ID on iNat could well be a ‘file and forget’ mechanism for contributors and I don’t think it always leads to retention or learning, it does not encourage even a modest level of research (that word again!).

Two - iNat with a very large global community can give access to expertise on some perhaps more esoteric subjects, an example of my own is Scandarma gracilipes from Analanjirofo, Madagascar on December 31, 2019 at 03:26 PM by mags49. Crabs described as water crabs or mangrove crabs, they climbed the tree and popped in and out of ... · iNaturalist

Three - Perusing many observations of an organism on iNat can be a useful way to learn a bit more, and I find that complements looking in my books when I want to know a bit more. With an understanding of the limitations described in this thread then it becomes another resource.

There are sometimes very positive and helpful exchanges on iNat but generally that is not the case, it seems to me. iSpot has contributors with strong expertise in UK organisms and it’s so good that these people continue to browse and contribute - very grateful to them.

I’ll come to back to this maybe, have to go out!

Hi Zo I believe that this is your first time on the Forum - so welcome.
Re iNat - I have moved on - it was more about the Erica that was identified there as RG.
‘To each his own’ - iSpot works for me - I just want to share my pictures and in recent years I have been adding links to allow others to see where I got my names,
Love tagging them so folk may see links to other observations of the same genus - also date-tags to link the other species I saw on the same day.
My latest craze has been to show by Project the Asteraceae that have always been a problem with look-alikes

and now the Glads - comments can be quite fun and some show how difficult it is to get a firm ID.

Bottom line - they are on record - and if in the future someone needs to double check they can - well!! most of my pics on the Cape Peninsula were taken following fires - but that is well known,
I’m adding links to some of my favourite projects, In case you’d like to browse.
Not only my pics here - contentious naming

Hi Zo, welcome to the forum from me too.
I use SEEK and I like the fact that it (well I mean the programming of course) is very careful about what it will suggest as an ID; If it does not have enough info it says so; then it may suggest a family or genus. I like a cautious approach.

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Thanks. Yes this is my first time