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misunderstandings about paleo funding



In the course of recent postings, it is very clear that some individuals on
this list do not have a good understanding of the nature of the type of
research being funded.  Self-styled civil disobedient Ken Kinman opines:

>      What really needs to be funded is dinosaur
> "science"----collecting and
> studying the fossils.

It is clear to most of us on this list that Ken is not a practicing
scientist.  However, the same is true of many others on this list.  To given
him (and you) a better idea of the nature of funding for scientific
research, the following:

What is funded for cladistic study of dinosaurs (or other fossil forms)?
PRECISELY and EXACTLY the same thing that would be funded for the
non-cladistic study of dinosaur anatomy and phylogeny.  That is to say, what
gets funded is the money for collecting, preparing, photographing and
otherwise illustrating specimens; travel time to and from other museums for
comparative examinations of comparable specimens; staff research time;
supplies.  That's about it.

How would this differ from a cladistic vs. a non-cladistic grant?  Not darn
much.  *Potentially* if it were a particular labs first ever cladistic
analysis, they'd have to buy a new computer, or at least a copy of PAUP*
(~$200, I think) or NONA (free...).  That's it.  Otherwise the research
expenses are the same.  If you want to test this for yourself, examine the
recent American Museum Novitates papers by Norell, Clark, Chiappe, Perle,
and Makovicky (in various combinations): they are almost all descriptive
anatomical paleontology.  Yet the grants for the AMNH Mongolian dinosaur
research are explicitly couched in terms of phylogenetic analysis.

So what is getting funded is the same as what would be funded in a
hypothetical world where no cladistics was done; collecting and describing
new fossils and comparative analysis of said fossils.  The importance of
stating the phylogenetic component in the grant application is to assure the
NSF/National Geographic/whatever agency and the reviewers that the results
will be presented in an explicity testable methodology, just as they must be
assured that the descriptive material will be published in an accessible
journal, that the laws of the nation in which the fossils are found will be
respected, etc.

I would be surprise if the members of the PhyloCode team are getting
compensated monetarily for their time on that project.  (Perhaps they have
some grant to support their time on it, but I can't imagine that it is that
big).  The participants on that team all have their "day jobs" as it were,
counting scales on anole feet and petals on angiosperms (or rather, doing
the detailed descriptive work on the various taxa which they study).

Incidentally, for any who think that the general public don't "get" the idea
that birds are living dinosaurs when explained to them relatively clearly,
please check out the on-line survey on the following MSNBC.com article:
http://www.msnbc.com/news/240136.asp

Obviously this survey is not done in the rigorous fashion of a Gallup poll,
as it only surveys willing participants.  Nevertheless, at the time of this
posting there have been 27,659 responses, and so might be a good indication
of the opinions of the interested lay-public.

Hope this helps and informs.

                Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
                Vertebrate Paleontologist
Department of Geology           Director, Earth, Life & Time Program
University of Maryland          College Park Scholars
                College Park, MD  20742
http://www.geol.umd.edu/~tholtz/tholtz.htm
http://www.geol.umd.edu/~jmerck/eltsite
Phone:  301-405-4084    Email:  tholtz@geol.umd.edu
Fax (Geol):  301-314-9661       Fax (CPS-ELT): 301-405-0796