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RE: JVP, SVP...too many 'VP's...
I'm not quite sure exactly what Toby's problem is here but there are some
facts and information that should be mentioned.
First of all, there has always been a non-member subscription option, so
you don't have to become a member to have access to the journal and the
information contained therein. Yes, the member price has typically been
lower but, so what, membership in almost all organizations has the advantage
of cheaper subsription rates so there is no real oddness or otherwise here.
Members provide the base support that keeps societies running.
Next, yes there is a code of conduct expected of members, as in almost all
professional organizations. Don't like em, don't join. You can still attend
the meetings, give papers and submit to and subscribe to the journal. Costs
a bit more, but tough. I am moderately strict about who I sponsor - prefer
to know them - but I easily see reasons to bring people in whever possible.
I sponsored Jane D. without meeting her but pretty much had a good feel for
her through the list and her work, which I admired. So I did not hesitate. I
also have known some pre-18 year olds I would sponsor and try to get through
- John Hasset and I think I corresponded with Andy Farke pre 18 and both
were obviously worthy. Lots of amateur collectors, which most of the pros I
know treasure, by the way, I'd be honored to sponsor. I like to see the tent
be as wide as possible for the Society but I don't think requiring people
follow a code of conduct to be unreasonable. Don't like the SVP, as Toby
seems to not in spades, then don't belong. Period. Case closed. Or join and
try to change it through established procedures.
I have yet to read Kevin's letter but suspect it follows his talk at
Florida and, frankly, it is a very tough and complex question. By the very
nature of the way we work in natural history, specimens have to be available
for repeatability of the work that is published. Consequently, all specimens
used for taxonomic descriptions or major research analyses must be ready for
those who wish to counter. Yes, most museums have been way too lax at their
loan periods in the past, but these are getting tightened up a good bit and,
hopefully, will be more. However, the specimens we have and most established
institutions have, including some private ones, have procedures to take care
of specimens and make them available, even if the institutions must
eventually shut down. The NMNH had received lots of collections from various
other institutions that could no longer support their collections.
So, what do you do with privately held specimens. Tough call at times but
until some arrangements are made for long-term donation, they just cannot be
acceptible as types or important figured specimens because they may just
disappear. Remember, we lost an archie a while ago because of this type of
thing and it is a real problem. The Bambiraptor arrangement is very complex
and I also call for great support of the Graves to finalize the donation so
this specimen becomes a non-problem. Keven did the same.
Now how about "politically incorrect specimens" - this gets even more
complex and obviously reflects on the recent National Geographic problems.
It's a tough, complex problem that merits a bit more thought than Toby seems
to be willing to give it, at least as indicated by the rather caustic note
he sent. There are comments that make sense on both sides and I'm not even
sure I know what my final thoughts are on this. On the one hand, if
important specimens are available, then they probably should be grabbed and
made available. On the other hand Storrs Olson is right when he strongly
mentions huge problems with doing field work at the Tucson Gem & Mineral
Show, where you really don't know where specifically the specimen comes
from, where the chance of fraud is so much higher - even if by a farmer who
only sees he'll make a few extra needed bucks - and, frankly, the specimens
are known to be illegally exported from China. The obvious answer might be
repatriation in cooperation with relevant Chinese paleontologists.
So I don't have all the answers by any means here. It is complex, but there
are certainly strong arguments about these problematic specimens being very
difficult to fold into the normal scientific procedures. Illegal specimens
are just that and it is not unreasonable for us to worry about the
ramifications of using them for scientific research.
Ralph E. Chapman
Applied Morphometrics Laboratory
National Museum of Natural history
ADP, EG-15 NHB, 10th & Constitution, NW
Washington, DC 20560-0136
(202) 786-2293, Fax: (202) 357-4122
>>> Toby White <email@example.com> 05/26/00 08:02PM >>>
Actually, the Socialists for Vertebrate Paleontology have now gone further
than that. If I understand Kevin Padian's recent letter to Science
correctly, it is now considered unethical to study fossils that are not
themselves politically correct. Specifically, Dr. Padian sniffs at
Bambiraptor and regards any science based on it as dubious -- because the
fossil is privately owned. Apparently, unless the means of scientific
production are owned by the State, it isn't science.
SVP's political initiation tests are beginning to sound like the old Soviet
system of requiring a Party card or equivalent proof of political orthodoxy
before permitting a student to do serious scientific work. Lysenko would
be proud of SVP, and certainly the folks on the Kansas Board of Education
would understand SVP's attitude, if not the particular sentiments
Vertebrate Notes at
From: ekaterina amalitzkaya [SMTP:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Friday, May 26, 2000 6:08 PM
Subject: Re: JVP, SVP...too many 'VP's...
>qualification for membership is sponsorship by an SVP member.
>Since there are ethics and other agreements involved, I would not >sponsor
>someone whom I did not know personally.
One can only marvel at the kinds of hang-ups people have with the mere act
of subscription for a scholarly journal. With such an attitude it is
unlikely that the real science of paleontology reaches the public. All they
will have is the "interest" and the pseudo-scientific press to whet their
tastes. It is time that paleotologists make their work more accessible to
the public with all the science un-diluted rather make statements about
others naivette. For example of the large section of 10-12 year old kids
getting excited about a new giant theropod there would be at least some
willing to pour over the bones and pursue science with great vigor. They
sure are as entitled to reading or writing a scientific a scientific paper
on a carcharodontosaur as an 18 year old with high ethical concerns
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