The first iNaturalistUK User Group meeting took place on 8 September 2021 (see original news story) and was attended online by around 25 people. The first part of the meeting was an introduction to the NBN Trust by Lisa Chilton, NBN Trust CEO. (Find out more about the NBN Trust by exploring the NBN Trust website further.)

This was followed by a brief outline of iNaturalist and iNaturalistUK. There is more information in the iNaturalistUK pages on the NBN Trust website. View the PowerPoint presentation.

A brief recap of the aims of the group were set out:

  • Establish how iNaturalist / iNaturalistUK is currently used in the UK
  • Establish what organisations want to use it for in future
  • Identify how the NBN Trust, as the UK lead, can help you make best use of iNaturalistUK
  • Discover what general improvements users would like to see

User Group Survey

Ahead of the meeting iNaturalistUK users who were interested in being part of the User Group were asked to complete a short survey to gain headline information on how they use iNaturalistUK and what improvements they would like to see. View a summary of the survey.

Initial discussions

The group were asked for their initial views and ideas and the following themes were raised. They were, in no particular order.

1. Use of Research Grade Observations

iNaturalist uses the term ‘research grade’ for observations that reach a community consensus.

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 (See iNaturalist Help page)

This is different to how species are verified in the UK. Some of the group said that they would like to see a ‘research plus’ rating or the use of a tag by the person suggesting the ID to indicate their expertise. The group thought that this could save iRecord verifiers work in being able to be confident that a research grade observation is correct.

Issues around ‘Research grade’ are not just confined to the UK. Search the iNatForum to see that this topic has prompted lots of discussion. Managing this issue will need much more discussion by the community.

2. Data Flow

A common theme from the survey and in the discussion was how data could flow from iNaturalistUK to the data users including Local Environmental Record Centres (LERC’s), National Schemes and Societies (NSS) and the NBN Atlas.

The Biological Record Centre (BRC) are working on confirming the process to ensure data does flow through iRecord and, where possible on to the NBN Atlas. Detailed information will be shared once available. An update on this has been added to iRecord see iRecord and iNaturalist help page.

3. Feedback to iNaturalistUK recorders

An ideal scenario would be that when a record is updated in iRecord feedback could be provided to the original observer in iNaturalistUK through an automated process. Unfortunately, this ability is not available. BRC have discussed the possibility of this with the developers of iNaturalist and a resolution is currently not available. iRecord will contain a link to the original iNaturalistUK record to allow manual updates. BRC will continue to look at this as a future option.

4. AI improvements from iRecord photos

It was suggested that photos added to iRecord be used to help with AI learning where they were on an appropriate licence. The BRC have done some limited research with this. In addition, iNaturalist have recently released a New Computer Vision Model.

For note iNaturalist state “Accuracy outside of North America has improved noticeably in this model. We suspect this is largely due to the nearly doubling of the data driving this model in addition to recent international growth in the iNaturalist community. We’re continuing to work on developing a better framework for evaluating changes in model accuracy, especially given tradeoffs among global and regional accuracy and accuracy for specific groups of taxa.”

5. Licences

Data users would like to see more data on open and therefore usable licences. Understanding which licence to use and why is something the community need to promote.

The default licence set when logging into iNaturalistUK is CC-BY-NC. This is set the same internationally and we are unable to have a separate UK default.

To check and update your licence on the website go to your Dashboard and then Settings > Content and Display. Within the App select Settings > Default Licenses

More detail is available within the Content and Display section under your profile on the website. See also this recent iNaturalist Blog post regarding licensing of photographs. Further reading: Creative Commons guide to licences.

It would be helpful to have user stories to demonstrate the benefits of open licences that can be shared.

In Meeting Poll

Attendees were asked what they wanted most from the iNaturalistUK user group and for one specific need. View the poll results. The main responses were to improve data flow and ensure data is verified and useful. There was also a need to provide resources for UK specific audience and promote iNaturalistUK’s place as a recording tool.

Next Steps

It was proposed that we have further meetings on a quarterly basis and use them to discuss the main issues that have arisen from the initial meeting. Details will follow. If you wish to be part of the user group or simply want to be updated on the meetings please add your name to the mailing list.