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Re: <philosophy> A little off subject...Re: Sue had no wishbone...

At 9:04 AM -0500 2/26/01, Brent Jones wrote:
"A Little Off Subject"? Whew, boy howdy!

<SNIP> but the dinolist comes to work, not home

Hi Brent,

What is this thing........... home?

Being an amateur who works for a museum, I find myself in the middle of this discussion: as a part of my job, I am expected to answer questions on paleontology based on what I have read here and on the web. Having said that, in my job, I am the first person to suggest to our museums' guests that they may want to contact a person who works professionally in this field. Someone who has studied this subject extensively. Someboday having those letters after their name, because that not only represents having studied, that represents having mastered the material to the extent that an institution responded by giving the accolade "PhD".

It's also the band-aid that goes on to cover the radiation burns that are left from having satisfied your committee that you are not going to embarrass them for the end of time and that is wasn't a waste to support your education for 3-5 years. After all, who is going to get asked: "You gave Dr. XX a Ph.D? What were you thinking?" Not you - your Academic Advisor is going to take the blame for you.

I also get several comments from our guests that they feel that their petty concerns are not worthy of interrupting such an important person.<SNIP>

This one never ceases to baffle me. Students do it too. "I didn't want to bother you." Sheesh. Read on:

For Crying Outloud. Ask a question! Please!
Just don't always expect an instant answer. Like anything.

The problem seems to me to be more of perception than reality. "Academics" (note the quotations!) seem to the genereal public to be too busy working on their 18 million different tasks

Blame the job. See today's Chronicle of Education in which one report says that a professor at a particular university is going to be allocated research space based upon their ability to "successfully obtain grant money." Gives a whole different meaning to "publish or perish" doesn't it?

to be "bothered" by a little question.

No question is "little" just as there really isn't a "dumb question."

While I in particular may fire what might appear to be a flippant answer at times, it is often as with any of us, just buoyant personality that is at play. A Ph.D. like anyone else must get older but also like everyone else we have this option: We don't have to grow up. The world is our playground and sandbox. I have to get older and that doesn't mean that I must become what is my perception of stodgy to do it. <grin>

Whereas I am not - my job is to answer questions. Many of the folks who mention that they feel a professional would be too busy to answer their question freely admit that they have not asked one yet.

Yep. I love having questions in lecture. Yet they are rare. If a student asks me a question I will focus completely on what was asked and if I have to continue the lecture material the next day, so what.

And those paleontologists who seem unwilling to answer questions? Maybe I got them on a bad day; maybe a major part of their ongoing research just was "misplaced" somewhere; maybe their significant other just called to say that their pet wandered away. Who knows? I believe that most professional paleontologists are dying to answer questions - look at all of the folks who belong to this list!

Good perceptions. And if we say "come back later" or "can I answer you later" we probably really mean it and "later" is like everything else, it's relative.

And then the whole comment about museums and the "treasure troves" of fossils that they hide! Oh, please! This is an extension of the same problem - "museums are secret places, where so much work happens behind closed doors<SNIP>.

Museums are libraries with fossils in them. A Ph.D. is your library card. You have to work to get the library card. Not everything in life is free. Give anyone, me or anyone else more money to fund a graduate student and I/we could clear 10 problems off of our/my plate(s) and send them to a dozen museums to look at specimens and describe them.

I even have to admit, the person who originally wrote about all the fossils that were labelled "unknown" admitted that there were not enough hands around to do the piled up work of preparing, identifying, cataloguing and displaying all of those years of accumulated fossils. So how do we get around this?

Quit digging? <smirk>

Marilyn W.
                        =00=  =00=  =00=  =00=
                        Marilyn D. Wegweiser, Ph.D.
                Adjunct Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology
                     Cincinnati Natural History Museum

Assistant Professor of Geology
Department of Geology                   mdwegweiser@bsu.edu
Ball State University                   Office: 765-285-8268;765-285-8270
Muncie, Indiana 47306                   FAX:    765-285-8265