Import of iNaturalist observations

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Barry Walter
Import of iNaturalist observations

I recently discovered that iRecord has started importing observations from iNaturalist. I have been using both platforms, so there is a lot of potential for duplication (a verifier recently informed me of one). My initial reaction to this is to wonder whether I should stop using iRecord in order to prevent any further duplication. What exactly are the plans going forward? Can I now assume that all of my research grade observations on iNaturalist will eventually find their way onto iRecord?

When it comes to entering records, the iNaturalist site is vastly superior to iRecord. I can automate the entire process (including adding photos), so it saves me a lot of time and effort. On the other hand, I greatly appreciate the feedback I get from the iRecord verification process, so I don't want to cut myself off from it entirely.

I found a thread on the iRecord issue tracker which gives some insights into what might be implemented. However, it would be very helpful if someone could explain what to expect from a recorder's point of view. Ideally, I would like to use iNaturalist exclusively for uploading all my records, but still get some sort of feedback from iRecord. Is this a realistic prospect?

Matt Smith
iRecord is a UK based system

iRecord is a UK based system with records verified by specialists / recording scheme experts, and with links to the NBN and Local Record Centres.  Both LRCs and National Recording Schmes can access iRecord data.  iNaturalist is a US based system where IDs are crowdsourced.  Data in iNats goes no further so it is essentially "lost" to the UK biological recording community, which is one of the reasons this link was developed.  I don't think there are any plans to have any feedback on records or verification going "the other way" and updating iNaturalist from comments or decistions made in iRecord.  I would recommend using iRecord as your primary recording platform adds iNats adds nothing "extra" to the record.

Barry Walter
Re: Import of iNaturalist observations

I have been using both platforms for quite some time, so there is no question that iNaturalist is a superior system from a recorder's point of view. This is no surprise really, since they have far more resources at their disposal than iRecord has, and have therefore developed a much more sophisticated interface with many more features. This doesn't mean that iRecord is a bad paltform - it just means it will always have far less to offer than iNaturalist (again, mostly from a recorder's point of view).

For now, I will think I may just stop using iRecord. I will certainly miss the feedback from the verifiers, but it's not a deal breaker. A much more important issue is the question of exactly which records will be imported. From what I can tell, the current thinking seems to be that only research grade observations will be imported. I can see why this is a sensible approach (as least to start with), but I think special consideration should be given to well-established iRecord users who also have an iNaturalist account. For them, I think there should be a way to explictly link the two accounts so that all their records could be imported from iNaturalist, regardless of their current research status. To put it another way: it shouldn't matter which specific portal I use to upload my records - so long as iRecord sees me as a trusted user, it should just treat them both the same. Ideally, iRecord would also continue to use their existing notification system to inform me of any changes that were made to such imported records, so that I could manually update my iNaturalist observations where necessary.

admin
Thanks for giving your views

Thanks for giving your views on this.  We are likely to explore further interactions with iNaturalist - you are certainly correct that it has considerable funding behind it.  We would be interested in hearing your perspective on the advantages of iNaturalist (from a recorder's point of view), so this can inform any improvements we might make.  David

MikeF
Work load

There are now many duplicate records from the iNaturalist imports.  I'm not a verifier, but and verifiying must be an onerous task already, and I should think this is just another added burden for them. I really value verification of records. Also these duplicates are annoying when searching.

I can't remember when I first signed up to iRecord but wasn't there an agreement not to duplicate records on other systems? I use iSpot, but mostly for queries.

Barry Walter
Re: Work load

Yes, the terms and conditions asks that you do not "submit records to this site that have already been submitted to ... another online wildlife recording system". But since it never defines "online wildlife recording system", it is unclear whether or not this applies to sites like iSpot or iNaturalist. Certainly they both can be used in that way, but that is not their stated priimary purpose. Despite this, I understand that iRecord has previously imported records from iSpot, even though it is primarily intended for identification purposes only. And as for iNaturalist, they describe themselves this way:

iNaturalist is an online social network of people sharing biodiversity information to help each other learn about nature.

and, more to the point:

It's NOT a science project. The data generated by the iNat community could be used in science and conservation, and we actively try to distribute the data in venues where scientists and land managers can find it, but we do not have any scientific agenda of our own aside from helping to map where and when species occur.

All of iNaturalist's research-grade observations are available as a GBIF dataset. If iRecord has now chosen to make use of this, it is entirely their responsibility to deal with any potential for duplication (just as it was when they took data from iSpot). Until very recently, the only reason I have continued to use iRecord is precisely because my iNaturalist observations wouldn't otherwise be passed on to the various recording schemes in the UK. But I now have a difficult decision to make. I have quite a lot of iNaturalist observations that are unlikely to become research-grade any time soon because there is currently no one with the expertise/inclination to confirm my identifications. If I don't submit these to iRecord, they will probably never find their way to the relevant UK recording schemes. I am not going to stop using iNaturalist just to avoid this problem (which was not of my own making). So, for the time being, I suppose I will just have to risk creating the occasional duplicate on iRecord. I have already suggested a fairly simple way for these issues to be avoided - but if iRecord chooses not to implement it (or something similar), that's just too bad, I suppose.

 

 

Matt Smith
Duplicate records are not

Duplicate records are not really a problem.  It is fairly easy to filter these out and to end up with only 1 "good" record on a system, although the duplicates should be retained in there somewhere, just not mapped or referred to.

As for iNats "research grade" records, there are only a limited number of experts out there, and a limited number of hours in the day one can spend verifying records.  When iSpot first came along I was set up with an "Expert" level rating to help get the system off the ground.  However, now iRecord is here, I spend most of my time Verifying records on here, I really don't have "spare" time to do the same on iSpot or iNaturalist and more, though I do pop in occasionally.

Barry Walter
Re: Duplicate records are not really a problem

Although I don't like the idea of creating duplicates, it's good to get some positive confirmation that these won't cause too much of a problem on iRecord. So I think I am just going to stop worrying about this and carry on as normal.

The main problem I see with the verification system on iRecord is that the status of a record is much more static than it is on iNaturalist. Once an identification has been determined, it's unlikely that it will ever be looked at again unless the recorder edits the original record. The community identification system on iNaturalist means that there are usually many more pairs of eyes looking at an observation, and it is quite likely to be reviewed multiple times both before and after it has reached research-grade (or whatever you prefer to call it). But a much more important aspect of community identification is that it actively promotes the development of expertise. Anyone can suggest an identification, and they will usually get feedback on it quite quickly (often with explanatory comments). A lot can be learned by everyone from this simple process (even the experts). In the long run, a self-training and self-correcting system like this will become much more powerful than a static verification system, because its pool of records, recorders and identifiers is constantly improving.

The biggest problem that iRecord has is that it does not really have a coherent community that encourages knowledge sharing. The recorders are largely isolated both from each other and the verifiers. Even worse, due to the vice-county stucture, they are also isolated from other parts of the country (and the rest of the world). This introduces an inherent bias to the whole system, because some vice-counties are much better served with verifiers than others. Getting positve feedback from your contributions therefore becomes a postcode lottery. I happen to live on the border between two vice-counties. One is quite active, but the other is a virtual dead-zone. There are many posts on this forum from people complaining about this situation; very often, frustration gets the better of them and they leave and never come back.

Overall, I get a very strong impression from iRecord that it cares much more about the data it receives than the people that provide it. With iNaturalist, it's the exact opposite.

chris.r.dufeu@g...
Import of iNaturalist observations

Thanks to Barry Walter for his comments.

Although I agree with much of what he says I would add a word of caution about his belief that the dynamic nature of iNaturalist will continue to improve the expertise of observers through the continued feedback. The downside of this is that if an identification is incorrect then others can learn wrongly from it and become experts in confident misidentification and then lead others in the same way. Does it happen? Yes indeed. There are a number of records of Arion ater, the Large Black Slug. They have images of a large black, or mostly black, slug. Unfortunatley the other three (or more) species in the sub-genus Arion (arion) can also have the same appearance. All that it needs is for two people to agree it is Arion ater and the record becomes research grade and the recorder will continue to submit dubious records. The comments given by the iNaturalist 'experts' generally agree it is Arion ater but do not suggest submitting images showing the foot fringe or sole nor whether the characteristic rocking behaviour of Arion ater has been observed. The nomenclature is also not up-to-date and I have the feeling that the experts' confirmation of the species is based on outdated (i.e. 40 year old) field keys.

At first I redetermined the records as Arion (arion) agg. which was safe (but not very useful) and gave what I hoped was helpful, encouraging feedback to the recorder. I have since discovered that iNaturalist does not pass iRecord feedback to the recorders. I have, therefore, just rejected all Arion ater records from iNaturalist unless there is convincing evidence that it is that species. The species group is common just about everywhere so the aggregate records add no real value to our national data collection.

I should say that not all species are as awkward as this one, and there have been some excellent slug records from iNaturalist,  but that the verification system is a two-edged sword and records need to be treated with understanding.

harasseddad
For what it's worth I won't

For what it's worth I won't be accepting any records that come from iNaturalist - some users seem to be using it to get ID's rather than submitting records, which it perfectly valid use of that website. The problem is they therefore are not concerned with accurately recording where they saw it. As a result I can't trust any location data as I have no idea if a record has really come from  the location attached to it. I can spot the one's that clearly are wrong (The chap with a string of BAP species from a diverse range of habitars all tagged with his back garden springs to mind) but the plausible is simply impossible to verify. Yes they photographed a Red Admiral - but was it where the system says it was, or did they see it on holiday? Is this user a concientious naturalist who took care to get the location right or just some guy who wants to know what the pretty butterfly is called? I have no idea. At least if they are submitted via iRecord the user intended to submit it.

Barry Walter
Re: Import of iNaturalist observations

Thanks for your feedback, Chris.

I understand your concerns, but the most effective way to address them is via active participation. Community identification only has a downside when people fail to share their knowledge. So if you see a long-standing problem and are confident you have a good solution, then fix the affected observations and add some comments explaining your reasoning. There is no point complaining about misidentifications if you aren't prepared to contribute constructive feedback yourself. Most people will quite happily engage with you once you start a dialogue - especially if they disagree with you!

You also seem to have your conception of the relationship between iNaturalist and iRecord backwards. Feedback must go from iRecord to iNaturalist, since the latter is just a passive source of data. In the short term, the simplest way to do this is for verifiers to set up iNaturalist accounts and add the necessary corrective identifications and comments themselves. In the l;onger term, an interface could be added to the iRecord verfication system to do most of this automatically. This should not be a very thing difficult to do, since iNaturalist already provides public APIs for precisely this kind of purpose.

 

Barry Walter
Re: Import of iNaturalist observations

Thanks for your comments, harasseddad - but don't you think you might be throwing out the baby with the bath water here? My immediate reactions to your concerns are very similar to the ones I gave in my reply to Chris above. The situation cannot improve if you don't provide constructive feedback. Every iNaturalist observation has a Data Quality Assessment attached to it, which covers location accuracy (amongst many other things). This allows any community member to flag problems like the one you mention, which will in turn prevent an observation qualifying as "research grade" (as long as enough people agree).

I cannot stress enough that iNaturalist is above all a participatory community. In the long-term, I think iRecord will have to engage much more actively if it wants to take full advantage of what iNaturalist has to offer. It is clear that iRecord has a great deal of expertise that could both help iNaturalist improve their data quality and also help their users to become better recorders and/or identifiers. But that cannot happen without active participation.

MikeF
Re iNaturalist Data Quality Assessment

iNaturalist Research Grade is very variable in accuracy and not reliable. I've found "research grade" identifications that are wrong and some have been imported to iRecord even though they are not now "research grade" on iNaturalist. For example this record 9899036 was imported as Cantharis fusca, but is Cantharis rustica. I'm not sure what will happen when these records are verified on iRecord as I don't think there can be feedback to the observer. Either the record should be corrected by the verifier or discarded, but of course even if it is corrected it will be wrong on iNaturalist. iNaturalist has some very good features and it is fast to use, but the data is variable. I've noticed that if I identify an unknown, the observer will then agree with my identification so the record then has research grade. 

Barry Walter
RE: iNaturalist Research Grade

I think you have misinterpreted what "research grade" means. There are many criteria that must be met for an observatioon to reach this status. The currently suggested community identification is just one part of it, and it does not imply verification of any kind whatsoever. Every observation imported from iNaturalist will have to go through the same iRecord verification process as any other record, so the accuracy of the original iNaturalist identification is largely irrelevant. For the purposes of iRecord, "research grade" is just a convenient way to exclude most of the low-grade observations on iNaturalist. However, there's no reason why it couldn't take a wider range of observations - e.g. all the ones that satisfy every "research-grade" criteria except for the community identification.

The other problem you mention about observers automatically agreeing with identifications is a relatively minor one. As has been noted several times already, iNaturalist is not primarily an identification site. The purpose of "research-grade" status is simply to indicate to data consumers that it is a potentially useful record - nothing more.

The only real problem with "research-grade" is the name. It is obviously far too easily misinterpreted. There has already been a lot of discussion about this on the iNaturalist forum, but I don't think anything significantly better has been devised yet. It's hard to come up with a short, unambiguous term that sums up everything it is meant to stand for.

Matt Smith
I would agree with much of

I would agree with much of what Barry says above.  Effectively, iNaturalist is just another source of potential data entering iRecord, in the same way the iRecord App or the "Enter a Casual Record" forms are.  The link to iSpot, if that ever gets put in place, will be another.

At the end of the day, it does not matter what the ID of the record on iNats is listed as, nor how many people agreed with an ID.  iRecord Verifiers essentially are the identifiers of all accepted records in the iRecord system as this is where the Verification decisions are made.  No matter what name is suggestest and who suggested it, if the Verifier in iRecord does not agree, "it ain't coming in!".

harasseddad
The problem is I have

The problem is I have absolutely no way of knowing if the location is accurate or not. At least with the iRecord app there's a gps device, and with the web page it asks the user to select a location. And I can't participate in yet another recording web page - I'm already spending hours of my limited free time verifying records from the one's I do bother with. In the end the best way of submitting records is to deal with your county recorder directly. I appreciate these web pages are useful in hoovering up records from casual observers but they aren't going to replace a well formatted spreadsheet deliberately compiled and deliberately submitted.

Barry Walter
Re: The problem is I have

The accuracy of the location information on iNaturalist is not much different to iRecord. It automatically extracts gps information from the image metadata, which can be added via a phone app, a camera, or a handheld device. I would imagine that the large majority of observations on iNaturalist have location data that is primarily gps-based (and it would be very easy to filter out any which weren't).

There is no such thing as a "best way" of submitting records - that's just confusing the medium with the message. The whole point is to eliminate such superficial differences as formatting and transmission method so that the underlying data can be treated in the same way.

Matt Smith
For an awful lot of recording

For an awful lot of recording schemes or groups, there is no County Recorder.

Gustav Clark
Under-recorded groups

I tried iNaturalist when I was starting out on this.  It gave me a  feeling of deep mistrust of the identifications.  I saw so many UK records misidentfied by US respondents, and there was no indication of what it was that IDs were based upon.  Generally people just agreed with whatever name was posted up first.  The Arion ater example is an obvious example, but when it comes down to myriapods I have seen 'Research Grade' IDs based on a single photograph. Take a look at  this one https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/24686827. To get a good ID you need a good photo of the tail, side on, the head, to check for eyes, and the first 6 segments side on for gonopods and possibly the first pair.  If it is male you need the first pair in detail.  Or this - https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/25493269.  From the detail given it can be ID'd as an ant.  Anything else is a guess.  But again that is Research Grade.  I didn't go far for these, they were the first records I looked at.

It may be that for major groups, such as butterflies, IDs are simple enough that a single photograph will suffice, and errors are obvious enough to be corrected

Charles.Farrell...
While iNaturalist might have

While iNaturalist might have a 'nice' interface and produce nice graphical displays of the data, I must admit that I tried it, found it rather wanting in terms of identification of UK species and then largely stopped using it.

The recent initiatives to get townies involved in recording nature as part of some inter-city challenges was met with suspicion by myself (and no doubt others too), but did prove to be quite useful and I think that I saw that in Greater Manchester at least, they were taking in some records that had been enetered in iNaturalist as part of this initiative. However I do find the image recognition aspects of iNaturalist (When it works) are pretty good, especially for taxa that I'm not very familiar with (most other than birds and butterflies) and since that does rely largely on google technology, it would be nice to see that become incorporated in iRecord.

I do occasionally post records to more than 1 platform, when I think that there is some need to alert local record centres and recorders - eg certain species of breeding bird, but generally follow the split of systems as follows:

- Bird Records go into Birdtrack (worldwide)

- Butterflies, Moths, Dragonflies and anything else interesting that I can get a good photo of, goes into iRecord (plus some unusual bird sightings)

- anything in Sweden goes into artportalen.se (having spent over 2 years living there, I do feel obliged to support the national system - and I do love manay aspects of that system anyway)

- anything else, where I have a good photo etc gets added to iNaturalist - in my case that includes records from the USA, Peru, France etc

I think iNaturalist is a great introductory tool, but I do share the concerns of others over the veracity of identifications. Also incentivising people to confirm identifications, by generating 'top identifiers' lists etc, is a social media step too far IMHO.

David.Roy
That's a very useful summary.

That's a very useful summary.  It broadly mirrors what I do.  iRecord for UK records as it is more tailored to biological recording based on a 50+ years history.  If I was seriously recording birds I would similarly recommend BirdTrack.  I generally use iNaturalist when travelling outside the UK. I also agree about being mindful of the dangers of 'Gamifying' aspects of recording.

JonathanWallace
I think Ispot sometimes

I think Ispot sometimes suffered(s) from the same problem.  It assigns people 'reputation' scores for different taxonomic groups.  Some of these are quite narrow - e.g. 'birds' but others are extremely broad e.g. 'invertebrates'.  There have been instances I am aware of where an invertebrate has been incorrectly identified but because the ID has been agreed with by a person with a top reputation score for invertebrates the ID gets fixed as the 'likely ID' unless another person with equivalent status comes along and corrects it which doesn't necessarily happen.  The original 'expert' agreeing the ID may have limited experience with the phyllum or order concerned but because s/he's been accorded five stars for all invertebrates their agreement counts for more than someone who may have more knowledge of the taxon in question but who for whatever reason has not accumulated as many reputation points.

BDeed
INaturalist and iRecord

It is fascinating to see the different viewpoints discussed here. As of this year i have actively started using iNaturalist and promoting it for the Liverpool City Region 'Year of the Environment'.

The reason behind this is pretty straightforward. iNaturalist is built to provide fast and easilly customised feedback to the observer. That feedback promotes use, learning and further engagement. This year the general recording base has near doubled and groups are engaging with wildlife in greenspaces in a way i've been trying to encourage for years. 

As someone delivering projects it makes creating and managing them incredibly simple, fast and easy. I realise Indicia is capable of a lot of the same but having spent a lot of time attempting to do what iNaturalist did in an hour the choice was stark, clearly this is to do with availability of resources but isn't that often the case?

 

iRecords strength goes back to the comment at the end of the original question. It is the verification hub for the UK and the main reason for that is the BRC's involvement and inclusion of schemes and societies. I would argue that actually iNaturalist is also incredibly useful for community feedback also and there are really top naturalists and researchers on there regularly willing to help. Have i recieved more help as a recorder on there than i did on iRecord, i can't say, but it's not far off.. Is the data more impactful via iRecord and the societies, absolutly.

 

I think the decision to import iNaturalist data to iRecord for verification is a good one for dataflow and to be honest i would not be filtering out data, as Barry has noted non-'research grade' can lack that status for a wide range of reasons and i think there is a wide mis-understanding of how it works. Instead automated validation processes this side (e.g. a NBN Rules clean (yes i know it has issues but it has huge potential for what i feel is a critical issue)) should be applied to remove or mothball clearly dodgy records or species/groups where a casual id would not normally be accepted without voucher. If the vast majory gets filtered out then ok, so long as a reasoned system is in place. Essentially, treating verification of records from iNaturalist as you would any other source.

 

The objections to the system seem to be largely personal. It is a tool that collects data in a format we can work with. The record itself can be reviewed and passed or failed on iRecord the same as a record from any other app or uploaded via a spreadsheet to iRecord itself. Technologically i think there is a fair bit iRecord and Indicia could take from iNaturalist and iNaturalist developers could benefit greatly from learning from UK biological recording. This really doesn't need to be an us vs them.

 

To me the actual issues are the same ones we've had all along, the lack of true recognistion and resourcing of verification and verifiers and partnered with better support for ensuring people who chose to record, continue to learn and benefit form that experience so that their skill improves.

Gustav Clark
Overall it seems that

Overall it seems that iNaturalist is OK for taxa that are easy to identify and therefore likely to be reported by the general public, or in a community-oriented bio-blitz.  With no built in quality control its location data is perhaps only reliable to a 1Km precision, and for common taxa .For anything more difficult then the records need to be good enough to pass the iRecord criteria - are all the critical features reported and is it plausible. 

The question of Research Grade status is a complete red herring.  The people who are voting for a name may be good, but they have not seen the specimen, only the evidence suppied in the iNaturalist record. If you look at iNaturalist you will see that Research Grade is pretty meaningless.  When an iNaturalist record reaches an iRecord verifier they must apply exactly the criteria they would use for any other record.

For my part I do find it very irritating to see iNaturalist records accep[ted with no evidence other than an ambiguous photograph, when my own are subject to far more rigorous scrutiny.

Matt Smith
Whether or not a record

Whether or not a record originating on iNaturalist is accepted once it enters the iRecord system is entirely up to the person verifying the records.  I would agree that only importing iNaturalist "Research Grade" records is a bit arbitary, but it does mean at least that a couple of people have suggests a name for it, so it should drop into roughly the right "awaiting verification" list.  As a verifier, when looking at any record, including those coming in from iNaturalist, the species name provided and the degree of "certainty" given by the recorder are not something I consider or give any weight to.  In every case, the decision rests on what I think the species in that photo actually is.  Just because a record comes in from iNats does not mean it will be "accepted", brilliant photo or not.

Andy_Underscore
iNaturalist data lag

Hi All,
I've only recently really got to grips with iNaturalist as we are encouraged to use it as part of the upcoming City Nature Challenge. As a LERC we do regularly import data from iRecord but up to now we haven't looked at importing any records directly from iNaturalist. I feel that it's a good thing that a link has been set up between the two systems as it potentially avoids the work (from an LERC point of view) of having to deal with importing data from two systems.

Are there plans to continue with this link between the two systems? If so what is the time lag between records being classed as 'research grade' on iNaturalist and them being imported to iRecord? I've noticed that we currently have iNaturalist records up to August in iRecord but nothing currently beyond that. This is just so I have a bit more understanding of the system for when I talk about it to recorders.

Thanks, Andy

MikeF
The Cantharis flavilabris, nigra, thoracica Muddle

iRecord uses the classification that has been used in Britain for many years. This classification is regarded as wrong and is not used by iNaturalist. iRecord uses C. nigra for the species with the black scutellum and C. thoracica for the one with the red one. iNaturalist uses C. flavilabris for the species with the black scutellum and C. nigra for the one with the red one.

When these records are imported into iRecord C. flavilabris is changed to C. nigra.

eg https://www.brc.ac.uk/irecord/record-details?occurrence_id=11090921

 

However C. nigra is just accepted as C. nigra instead of C. thoracica which iRecord uses

eg https://www.brc.ac.uk/irecord/record-details?occurrence_id=11089681

Gustav Clark
Insofar as iRecord has a

Insofar as iRecord has a naming policy it is to follow the advice of the advice of the specialists in particular groups. Immediately, this is a matter for the UK Beetle Recording scheme to handle.

You can get an understanding os what is happening by looking at NBN Atlas (same naming rules as iRecord).  C. flavilabris is marked as a synonym for C. nigra, so all C. flavilabris records will be renamed as C. nigra.  C. nigra is a preferred name, so its records will not be renamed. C. thoracica isn't involved in the dispute.  Since in general iRecord takes its species lists from the NHM I would suggest that you locate the appropriate specialist there to see if they have made a mistake.

Barry Walter
RE: Cantharis flavilabris, nigra, thoracica

It seems clear that iNaturalist is using the most up-to-date (and correct) nomenclature here, and iRecord/NBN is not.

The situation has already been fully described in a paper by Michael Geiser (NHM) and Fabrizio Fanti which was published in The Coleopterist (December 2015), and is available here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/289965648. In their proposed synonomy, the species with the black scutellum should use the name Cantharis flavilabris Fallén, 1807, and the species with the red scutellum should use the name Cantharis nigra (De Geer, 1774). The NBN Atlas uses the UK Species Inventory (UKSI) for its taxonomy, which is managed by the NHM. It is unclear why a proposal from one of the NHM's own experts in this area has not yet been adopted.

 

Barry Walter
RE: iNaturalist and iRecord

Thanks BDeed for your well-considered reply.

It will be no surprise that I am in full agreement with everything you say - but with respect to the main topic of this thread, the most important is this:

"The objections to the system seem to be largely personal. It is a tool that collects data in a format we can work with. The record itself can be reviewed and passed or failed on iRecord the same as a record from any other app"

Many people both here and elsewhere just don't seem to get this. The source of the data is totally irrelevant. An observation/photo uploaded to iNaturalist is exactly the same as one uploaded to iRecord, or iSpot, or any other data collection site. And how each site chooses to treat that data within its own confines is also largely irrelevant (to the other sites). Rejecting records purely on the basis that they passed through iNaturalist first rather than iRecord seems like a clear case of Not Invented Here Syndrome.

 

Matt Smith
"The NBN Atlas uses the UK

"The NBN Atlas uses the UK Species Inventory (UKSI) for its taxonomy, which is managed by the NHM. It is unclear why a proposal from one of the NHM's own experts in this area has not yet been adopted."

It may be down to time available.  The UKSI updates are managed by one person at the NHM, who has some other duties as well.  If these name changes have not been flagged up as needing attention, then it may not be on the list of updates required.  Put a post on the NBN Gateway forum about it.

lerc
It has been flagged up

It has been flagged up ( https://forums.nbn.org.uk/viewtopic.php?id=7341 ) but it's not a simple name change as there are implications for existing records. Should have been 'solved' by now though but it's not showing the 'correct' arrangement on the UKSI - I've bumped the issue on the NBN forum.

MikeF
Re It has been flagged up

"but it's not a simple name change as there are implications for existing records".   Indeed.  Which species are the C.nigra (thoracica) records on iRecord?   It cannot be assumed all C.nigra are C.flavilabris.

 

Record 11089681 certainly isn't - an import from iNaturalist.  If there aren't photos there isn't a way of telling.

Chris Lamsdell
import of iNaturalist data

whilst the import of iNaturalist data is a good thing - I use both - so all my data will be duplicated therfore on iRecord, if imported in without are data cleansing

how do I know - well if you enter Southern Damselfly into iNaturalist it is mared up as sensitive and places the data into a 5 or 25km area, not sure which, so when it was imported into iRecord it comes up somewhere where they are not known from -- causing someone to contact me asking !

 

plus whilst iNaturalist is great for help wiht ID and errors, there are some that if they do not think the photo tells them excatly what a species is, they change it to taxon, resulting in specifies specific conformations on iRecord being dupolkicated with the same sighting being imported as taxon only. This is because basically iNaturlaist is primarily a photo platform if you load one up, and some commnetators are not using knowledged based ID - such as does the species occur at the site or not, which is where iRecord has a plus against iNaturalist.

what I must confess I do not undestand is though, there is not some data cleaning as the iNaturlaist data is imported - if checked it should show that on the date and locations I already have my data in iRecord so the INataurlist reports should have been deleted from myself rahter than put in twice................

 

John H Bratton
Import of iNaturalist data

The way iNaturalist users are recording locations is a big negative for me. The stated location is often many miles from the location marker because the location name is apparently generated automatically by their phone and seems to be the closest major town. For example, a record on Ynys Llanddwyn, SH3862, gets the location name Llanfairpwll which is at SH5271. Having taken up this issue with iNaturalist admin and a few of the iNaturalist recorders, I have been told to ignore the place name, it is the place marker that matters. But if the place name and the map ref don't agree, how can anyone spot the records where the location is wrong? When I worked at BRC in the 80s, my main job was checking that the grid ref matched the place name and if they didn't, the recorder got a letter asking them to correct one. How do iRecord admin and verifiers treat iNaturalist records where the map reference and the location name don't match?

MikeF
Place name and Grid Ref

The place name and grid ref aren't checked on iRecord either - at least for some records.  I have found two records where this has occurred, but accepted as correct.  I've added comments, but the records haven't been corrected.

Matt Smith
I'm told the link from

I'm told the link from iNaturalist to iRecord has now been turned off.

admin
Yes, this is our explanation

Yes, this is our explanation of how we reached this decision - https://www.brc.ac.uk/irecord/linking-inaturalist.  As with many aspects of biological recording, there is a diversity of views. 

Barry Walter
RE: Yes, this is our explanation

The link to the explanation is broken. Here is a working one: https://www.brc.ac.uk/irecord/linking-inaturalist.

admin
Thanks Barry

Thanks Barry

S R
Moving forward

For those of us who still wish to maintain a link somehow, I am wondering about simply downloading my spreadsheet of data from iNaturalist, then uploading here.

Is that acceptable or making a mockery of the situation? 

 

For me, there seems to be little or no substance in most of the arguments against iNaturalist, it saddens me there can't be a more inclusive approach.

I hope it changes in the future...feels a little too close to other examples this/last year of British isolationism for me...as Barry says, "not invented here syndrome".

Many recording schemes seem to be coupling Facebook groups with iRecord.... so there are multiple social spaces for citizen science style group identification, sharing and learning... and then iRecord as hub for data entry. As an outsider this comes across structurally as pretty impractical. I'm really grateful to be able to have access to this level of expert advice so directly...

But iNaturalist pretty much just puts all of this together in a single hub and throws in an AI to learn alongside everyone too.

Why is everything so splintered in the UK system? Is it just too tied to historical precedent? are there similar issues in other countries? 

 

The autosuggest quality (as well as the community) is growing and the quality of the identifications will only improve with time once there is sufficient training data for the AI to learn from.

The records remain open and can be amended at any time. 

 

One thing reading this thread which I really don't understand  though is the issue with location name....I'm a newcomer to recording so I guess I must be misunderstanding the problem...But for me it sounds like a hang up from old styles of recording where you might need to correlate something as easy to get wrong as a hand written grid reference with a location name...- something which would potentially no longer apply in this day and age with satellite views of maps and pinpoint accuracy by mouse click or automated GPS positioning via phone app.

Many of my records don't have a specific place title on iNaturalist or iRecord or if they do, then its somewhat arbitrary (not always easy to think of a name for a bit of a path in a wood on a hill)...so surely the selection of the location on the map is what matters ? Why should a personal  name I give to a place have any value?  In any case, the user interface on iNaturalist for this is considerably easier to control and work with, especially when bulk uploading, so I'd say my iNaturalist records are if anything much more accurate when it comes to location.

 

Barry Walter
Re: Moving forward

I can't see anything wrong with adding your records from iNaturalist. However, there is currently no way to include photos when importing from a spreadsheet. This means you will have to enter everything manually if you want to fully replicate the records. You can of course omit the photos, but the resulting records would then have a much lower long-term value, and may never be verified.

I think iRecord has taken the right decision to stop the automatic import of iNaturalist data. Proper integration would take up too much of the limited resources available, so it's better to concentrate on maintaining and improving the existing functionality. One sorely needed improvement is obviously the facility to import photos with spreadsheet data. This would be an enormous help to many people (not just those who also use iNaturalist). Entering records one by one so that photos can be included is a massive pain-point for anyone who has more than a few dozen records to upload.

The issue with location names may stem partly from iNaturalist extracting the lat/long from the photo metadata. If this originates from GPS data, there is no guarantee that it will always be fully accurate, and can sometimes be wildly wrong. Including a fairly precise location/site name can therefore provide a useful sanity check, especially if it can be matched against features on an OS map. (If there are no obvious features nearby, you can always do something like "path between x and y" or "hill 3 miles south of z").

S R
...

Yes...I hope my comment didn't sound overly sour, apologies to anyone who reads it if it does! I totally get there are of course limited resources and as someone mentioned elsewhere, the recording schemes can still use iNaturalist data if they choose. I have just been a little surprised by some of the dismissive comments I've seen around about iNaturalist... (not just on this thread)

I recognise the majority of recording work is done by volunteers and am of course very grateful for anyone who has verified my records here as well as those who put this site together...its been a key part of my route into becoming passionate about recording, alongside iSpot and other places.... Ultimately, they alll have pros and cons.

 

I think the limitations around photo upload are the key reason I use iNaturalist now over iRecord. Its just too time-consuming with the current interface given the number of records I like to process.

Would be a great development indeed if spreadsheets with multiple photo URLs could be used for upload... as you say, not just for iNaturalist users.

Barry Walter
Re: Moving forward

Well, if you've read through this thread you won't be suprised to hear that I sympathise with your dismay about some of the attitudes towards iNaturalist. I still don't entirely understand what's behind most of it.

I gave up using iRecord during the experiment with automatic imports and switched to iNaturalist for much the same reason you did. However, now that has come to an end, I've come full circle and decided to upload to both platforms again. For now, I think the feedback from verification and the direct links with the UK recording schemes are worth enduring the pain of entering records manually on iRecord.

S R
...

ok interesting. 

I am also weighing up now whether to use iRecord or send spreadsheets direct to recording schemes... spreadsheets direct to recording schemes seems to make more sense as I can take it straight off iNaturalist. But i would use iRecord for this if I there was better integration with photo uploads via spreadsheets somehow, as mentioned.

MikeF
Location and map reference

"How do iRecord admin and verifiers treat iNaturalist records where the map reference and the location name don't match?"

I don't know the answer to that question but even iRecord records are not always verified for a match.

harasseddad
Coming late to this but to

Coming late to this but to answer the question - without a location name I have to take the grid reference on trust. And they are very frequently wrong - sometimes massively so. Many users look at the screen, see that their location is visible and click ok without worrying about where the cross hairs are. If there's a location name you can pick some of these up - last year I had a user submit a record where the grid reference was the middle of a field in the fens. The site name was "garden, Colchester", all their other records had locations near Colchester, clearly something had gone wrong. Now in this case I was paying attention because that field in the fens has had no records at all for forty years, but I fret that loads are getting through because of the sheer volume of records that these sites produce. I'm spending an hour or more each day verifying on iRecord (admittedly it would be less if the site was faster to load and react) and each record gets very little attention at that. The photos turn up in the verification screen at a tiny resolution - frequently I can't even see the insect - but for butterflies that's not really an issue. Assuming it's a common species at the right time of year I assume that the recorder has got the id right. What I'm worried about is the location. Casual records (which is what these apps produce) are all about distribution - where are the species, are their ranges increasing or decreasing, are they vanishing from sites where they were once common. The location is vitally important, and casual recorders don't pay it much attention choosing to focus on the identification aspect. One common problem is "car park records" - the user starts up the app, gets an incredibly accurate GPS location for the spot they are standing in - usually next to their car - and then goes walking for miles logging absolutely everything against that location. At one point I believe 90% of sightings at RSPB Titchwell were recorded in the car park and only 10% in the actual reserve. And while your records may be accurate as to location many aren't and from  what I saw the location data from iNaturalist was much worse on average than that from iRecord. Possibly because of automated collection of gps data or perhaps wrongly co-ordinated satellites. The advantage of a hand derived grid reference is that failures are mostly self evident - if you transpose easting and northing (the most common error) you usually end up in the sea (at least in my county), whereas an amazing number of phones will give you an incredible precise grid reference from GPS that is exactly 120m east of where you actually are - but to 12 digits of precision.

The other downside of iNaturalist it seems, and I wasn't aware of it until your comment, is that the id isn't fixed ="The records remain open and can be amended at any time". You see everything I verify here I then download and import into my database. I won't revist those records again on the website - I view all these sites as just sources for data - everything gets turned into a spreadsheet in the end for importing into a common database. As a county recorder I would much rather that users compiled a spreadsheet of their sightingsand sent it to me by email than any of these fancy websites, and actually user submitted sheets still comprise 90% of the records I get each year. They are far easier to deal with and verify on screen all at once than this interminable web based "click on a record", click on 'considered correct', wait for box to draw on screen, click on "ok", wait for screen to refresh, move to next record, repeat.  So by all means download your records from iNaturalist and send them directly to your county recorder, they would love them.

 

campathmike
Location and Map reference

The frustration I have with iRecord is the inability for it to at least offer you the information extrated from the Metadata of a photograph as a starting point for location. At least three of my cameras now include an inbuilt GPS and also compass function so that they record both the location and the orientation of the camera when the picture was taken. Most phone cameras will also include this information. For those cameras where I don't have this functionality I use a separate GPS, record a tracklog and then on my laptop I can automate the syncing of the Metadata in the photos with the GPS tracklog. Sites such as iSpot, iNaturalist and eBird will use the Metadata from uploaded photos to offer a location for the record, which can if necessary then be manually overridden. However for iRecord it doesn't seem able to offer this information, and when uploading images from an iPhone or iPad, it uses the current GPS location of the device rather than the Metadata in any previously stored photographs. This to my mind both slows the entry process down considerably, but also introduces a source of unnescessary error to the location details when I know that the Metadata in the photo files is correct.

Steve Daniels
iNaturalist - iRecord link

As I work in two countries, Greece and UK, I use iNaturalist which covers both locations. In the UK, I find that various specialist groups [UK Hoverflies for example] use only iRecord which is solely UK based. The ability to automatically share data between the two platforms would be highly beneficial. I, for one, do not have the time to double enter data to both systems on a record by record basis.

 

Roger Morris
It all depends on what you weant records for!

I think the crucial issues concerning usage of iRecord and iNaturalist  are completely separate:

On the one hand, it seems that uploading data to iNaturalist is a great deal easier than it is for iRecord. If, as a recorder, you feel that this is the most impotant element of the platform then iNaturalist is the one for you – use it but remember that it was not designed for UK-style biological recording. It was designed in the USA where there is basic awakening to the potential of the non-vocational community of ‘amateur naturalists. So, frankly, ‘Research Grade’ data is both unquantified and untested, especially as the researchers using those data may have scant knowledge of the taxa involved!

Meanwhile, the UK has a history of non-vocational biological recording going back at least two centuries. Furthermore, it has been ‘world-leading’ in the development of recording schemes for a multitude of taxa (at the last formal account 85 schemes but more than that now and several informal study groups). iRecord (for all its sins) was designed to meet the needs of those schemes and also to anticipate some of the uses to which iNaturalist designers could only aspire in decades to come. UK data are already answering questions that can never be gleaned from existing iNaturalist data. So, if you want your data to contribute to analyses such as the biannual ‘state of nature’ report iRecord is the right platform.

It is true that irecord has weaknesses such as the lack of interactivity. However, we do have other facilities in that toolbox such as our UK Facebook groups. Some are better than others, but they do have the advantage that a conversation can be held and others can delve into it. As such they are far more efficient learning tools. That is especially important when you bear in mind that there are precious few taxonomically competent specialists that also have a sound understanding of geographic range and variation. Facebook allows those specialists to engage where necessary but also to skip because someone else has adequately resolved an issue. If the specialists who do the verification on iRecord were to engage fully they would never get any sleep if they do so for a popular group of organisms.

I would also argue that both iRecord and iNaturalist tend to encourage very superficial recording – either something a complete novice wants identified or something that in that person’s judgment is unusual. For biological recording to be useful it is important to get complete lists and to encourage comprehensive recording. As a Recording Scheme organiser, I have opted to encourage comprehensive recording because in the long-run that will benefit the dataset of which I am simply the current ‘custodian’. We (Stuart Ball and I) have done a lot of analysis of the data and have concluded that the scattergun approach to recording occasional sightings is skewing what were once much more tightly constructed datasets – list length matters, as does recording of both the common and the unusual.

The HRS model will not work for everybody, but our approach has been heavily influenced by that of Birdtrack, which I think at the moment sets the ‘gold standard’ for biological recording used to provide feedback from opportunistic records.

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