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Re: VP Professionals

----- Original Message -----
From: Bartlema, Lauri, L. <BartlemaL@emh10.bliss.army.mil>
To: <dinosaur@usc.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, November 10, 1999 11:05 PM
Subject: RE: VP Professionals

> I agree.  I am currently working on my masters thesis and working for the
> Army, doing, among other things, paleontology.  I feel safe in saying that
> am probably the only paleo person who works for the Army.  I am carving
> a niche and clawing and scrambling to find a way to keep myself in it.  I
> take home all sorts of extra work and am trying to make myself and my
> talents indispensable.  I am finally, after over 3 years, starting to get
> some notice and recognition for my work.  You just have to be tenacious
> hope it works out for you.
> Lauri L. Bartlema

> > From: Ralph Chapman[SMTP:Chapman.Ralph@NMNH.SI.EDU]
> > Subject: VP Professionals
> >
> > I spent some time thinking about the recent notes about
> > batches of graduate students and the lack of jobs and stuff.
> > I understand the frustration of some who think it best to
> > not bring along students that probably won't get academic
> > jobs for various reasons, many not related to their talent
> > but to the great random and non-random processes involved
> > with how academic jobs get assigned. So most who go on to
> > some graduate level research won't get jobs teaching at a
> > university. So what?
> >
> > I would hate to lose what is a great resource for all of us
> > because we have not used our imagination. The growth
> > industry in paleo jobs will be brand new niches that are
> > carved out by people who find a way to do some paleo as part
> > of what they do. I would like to see more high school
> > teachers have advanced degrees in something like paleo
> > because too many don't have a good grasp of any one subject
> > and, as such, don't have a good enough grasp of how science
> > works in general. Many high schools provide more research
> > time (Summers, etc) and higher salaries than most small
> > colleges with huge teaching workloads. Paleo is a great hook
> > to get people interested in science and would be great for a
> > sub-college teacher. If you want to go on and know your
> > talents are different from a Steve Gould, prepare for a
> > different teaching level and use whatever spare time you
> > have to do the research on what we love. Perhaps one can
> > approach whole school systems for a position rather than one
> > school. I won't say it is easy, but I know very few people
> > who haven't worked like hell to get the jobs they have. It
> > is very much worth trying.
> >

I have true admiration for all those that find the time and energy to invest
into paleo research in whatever form after hours, but it doesn't seem like a
very firm foundation for a science. Paleontology as a science has
specialised very late, and we see a growing influence of contributing
sciences like biochemistry and molecular biology, which are highly
jargonised and almost exclusively the area of professional participants.
This means that paleo will become increasingly a matter of professionals
that can devote all their time and effort to their field, and that the input
of amateurs on the professional level will decrease even further. I grant
you that some creativity is required to keep going amidst budget spendings
(and a lot of people involved in paleo research do so from a professional
'sideline'), but if paleontology wishes to keep its place as a serious
discipline it will have to do so on the basis of a decent institutional
The European situation may be more demanding in that regard, since we are
almost exclusively dependant upon state financing for research, and there is
no real European equivalent for the US's popular paleo market (except
perhaps in the UK).
The flipside, of course, is (as Ralph Chapman said) that paleontology is
still fairly accessible to scientifically interested laypeople (such as
myself) and can therefore be a great tool to further a wider understanding
of the way in which science works. In that sense, I can only praise the
efforts of paleontologists that devote time to the education of the public.
Especially in the field of 'dinosaurology', far too many works are published
by copywriters instead of the people that are professionally involved with
dinosaurs; the result has often been a tangled mess of misunderstandings and

Ilja Nieuwland