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Re: Abstracts & Illustrations

        Josh Smith wrote:

>Rather than repeat the entire text of a rather long email, I will just
> offer my support and state that I feel Norm is 100% correct.  You must
>SEE the specimens.  Period.  You must also see the outcrop.

        I hate to disagree, especially when it seems that your stance is
considered the equivalent of "politically correct" by most "big
name" workers. Many "provincial" paleontologists simply cannot afford
to visit all the specimens. This does mean that certain subjects, such as
systematics, are effectivley closed for to them (you won't
be seeing my hadrosaur dataset until I can personally review most of the
specimens and confirm observations from the literature). However, it is a
particularly unproductive attitude to expect a paleontologist to see every
specimen of interest, especially for comparative purposes (it also seems
just a shade exclusive). After all, what is the literature for, anyway?
        Another point for you and Dr. King: paleontology is NOT
stratigraphy! There is no way to illustrate a formation, and outcrop
illustrations don't convey the same sort of information. I agree that a
sed/strat study requires a programme of field work. Indeed, I've measured
and mapped and researched all around Big Bend, and I can barely say
anything beyond the four square meters of each of my sites. Not that I
would necessarily have anything to say anyway. :)
        However, morphological information is interpretable from
illustrations directly (although not always accurately... c'est la
science). I can look at illustrations of bones which I *know*
to be somewhat inaccurate, and make a few simple conclusions. If those 
conclusions don't hold up, at least you'll know why. If it is an
important point, I, or someone else, can go and examine the specimen
        There is a skill to interpreting photographs and
drawings, one which (admittedly), not everyone has. Just because some
people are bad at it doesn't mean everyone is. It is simply insulting
to assume that someone who has not seen the specimen can make no
contribution to its study.
        As I have posted before, viewing a specimen does not constitute
divine revalation, it is just one step better than using the literature.
Really, if we carry this to its logical extreme, we should also discount
the work of stupid people, even if they have seen the specimen. Is that a
reasonable approach? Sure, in an ideal case, where we all had money coming
out of our rear ends and we could afford to jet off to Lower Slobovia
to see a new monkey finger before the deadline for our next paper, we
would do so. Unfortunately, I don't think even you, Josh, can always do
this. At least, if you can, I want your budget and your schedule! :)
        Upshot (not specifically for Josh and Dr. King, but for everyone):
consider the scope of the study, and the resources of the worker, before
you go disparraging on the value of their contributions. And, for
gosh's (if not Josh's) sake, illustrate as much as you can afford to!