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Re: Abstracts, evidence, and disappointment [was: Re: It's HERE!!!]

Jonathan Wagner wrote-

> As anyone who attended SVP 1999 can attest, an abstract is a
> placeholder in the schedule of events of a conference, which allows you to
> go to your department (or other funding organ) and request money to attend
> the meeting. It later tells people that you were at that meeting, and
> what you talked about.

Fine.  Abstracts are scientifically worthless and are not written to educate
people as to the conclusions of your research, but rather exist to fill up
symposia, acquire finances and record your presence and purpose at the
meeting.  I'm sorry I was so naive to think respectable research might be
behind the abstracts printed by journals and that authors have the
intelligence to verify the accuracy of any data they are willing to print in
their name (and perhaps run it by a few colleages to assure its
presentability).  I know if I were to ever write an abstract I'd make damn
sure it was accurate and based on valid research.  I guess I give others too
much credit to do the same.

> You restate exactly what I said here, only you provide examples:
> firsthand observation is not ultimate revalation, it is simply observation
> one level better than examination of the literature.

That's because I agree.  I never said seeing a specimen would give you all
the answers, I just said it's peferrable to simply looking at illustrations
or reading descriptions.

> Tell me about it. These publications are very difficult to deal
> with. However, don't judge too harshly: at least when you have a lot of
> tiny figures... you have a lot of figures! Sereno is very good about
> trying to squeeze documentation into Science, which is VERY stingy with
> their space restrictions (they kind of have to be, given their mandate).

I agree that it's not the author's fault there are page restrictions in
Science and Nature.  I am saying I think we would get better descriptions
published if they were in larger journals and if publishing quickly wasn't
as important as publishing comprehensively.  At the least, there should be
more detailed descriptions appearing simultaniously or a year or so
afterwards (like Mononykus- Nature in 1993, American Museum Novitates in

> Also, generalizations such as this should only be made when you
> can back them to the hilt. I have never seen poor documentation in a
> Japanese dinosaur paper, although I have seen very few Japanese dinosaur
> papers. Indian dinosaur papers (from the seventies) are similarly scarce,
> but Chatterjee did some work on phytosaurs in the seventies, and it is
> amply illustrated. I think what you could get away with is CHINESE
> dinosaur papers from the seventies (although I don't think I would publish
> something so jingoistic).

I never meant to insult Asian paleontologists.  You're right in that I was
referring mainly to Chinese papers, as dinosaurs are far rarer in most other
Asian countries (I thought I might avoid the whole ethnic prejudice thing by
referring to a geographical landmass as opposed to a country, but I guess it
didn't work....).  The main issues I was addressing in interpreting Chinese
papers are both a lack of illustrations and presence/quality of translation.
Most Chinese papers from before the nineties lack translations and rely on
plates and a few line drawings to illustrate the material.  As these
publications are often difficult to acquire, it is often only possible to
get photocopies of photocopies, which makes plates very hard to see.  This
is how I figured the description of Nipponosaurus was, which made me
hesitant to trust conclusions based on such a paper.

> P.S. Lest anyone whould think otherwise, I am not trying to grind poor
> Mickey down here. The only reason I keep on him about this is because I
> think he provides a valuable service to the DinoList community, and I
> think he is worth trying to convince. I certainly don't want to insult
> him, and if he were to feel that this conversation is too harsh, it
> certainly wouldn't be worth continuing.

Rather odd responding to a paragraph addressing me in third person, but
don't worry about it.  I love debating as much as the next person and
welcome criticism, considering how much I dish out. :-)

Mickey Mortimer