What is the Data Quality Assessment and how do observations qualify to become "Research Grade"?

Modified on Fri, 02 Feb 2024 at 02:16 PM

The Data Quality Assessment is a summary of an observation's accuracy, completeness, and suitability for sharing with data partners. On any observation page, scroll down to see the Data Quality Assessment. 

The building block of iNaturalist is the verifiable observation. A verifiable observation is an observation that:

  • has a date
  • is georeferenced (i.e. has lat/lon coordinates)
  • has photos or sounds
  • isn't of a captive or cultivated organism

Verifiable observations are labeled Needs ID until they either attain Research Grade status, or are voted to Casual via the Data Quality Assessment.

Observations become Research Grade when

  • the community agrees on species-level ID or lower, i.e. when more than 2/3 of identifiers agree on a taxon
  • or the community agrees on an ID between family and species and votes that the community taxon is as good as it can be

Observations will revert to Casual if the conditions for Verifiable aren't met or

  • the community agrees the date doesn't look accurate
  • the community agrees the location doesn't look accurate (e.g. monkeys in the middle of the ocean, captive/collected organisms observed inside a building but unlikely to have been found there naturally, etc.)
  • the community agrees the organism isn't wild/naturalized (e.g. captive or cultivated by humans or intelligent space aliens)
  • the community agrees the observation doesn't present evidence of an organism, e.g. images of water, rocks, etc.
  • the community agrees the observation doesn't present recent (~100 years) evidence of the organism (e.g. fossils, but tracks, scat, and dead leaves are ok)
  • the community agrees the observation no longer needs an ID and the community ID is at or above family level
  • the observer has opted out of the community ID and the community ID taxon is not an ancestor or descendant of the taxon associated with the observer's ID

And of course there are even more caveats and exceptions:

  • Research Grade observations will become Needs ID if the community ID shifts above the species-level
  • Research Grade observations will become Needs ID if the community votes that it needs more IDs
  • Observations can be Research Grade at genus or any other level below family if the community agrees on an ID at that level and votes that the observation does not need more IDs
  • The system will vote that the observation is not wild/naturalized if there are at least 10 other observations of a genus or lower in the smallest county-, state-, or country-equivalent place that contains this observation and 80% or more of those observations have been marked as not wild/naturalized.

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