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RE: Minotaurasaurus controversy

Frankly, I think finding specimens that were "lost" in a museum's
collections and comparing them to this situation is making a rather weak
analogy and comparing apples to oranges.  Finding specimens that have
been "lost" over time in museum collections (with admittedly sketchy
locality data) is a bit different that encouraging someone to purchase a
specimen which is in all probability smuggled out of a country, with
promises that if said person buys the specimen, it will in turn be named
after the person that buys it.  I honestly can't believe that there are
arguments that this is somehow ethical or the comment which some people
seem to be repeating which is basically, "well, its ok as long as its
published and the data gets out there".  If people are willing to
encourage others to do all of this and then describe the specimen they
know is most likely "hot" it raises the question of "what other corners
did they cut in their scientific method?"  Again...I find it amusing
that the U.S. legal system seems to have better checks and balances when
it comes to admitting evidence in court than this journal which allowed
the publication in the first place.  Maybe I'll go steal someone's car,
encourage someone else to buy the stolen car with the promise that I'll
write article for an automobile magazine on how well it handles and take
a picture of them for the article? The point is allowing the publication
of these types of specimens only encourages bad behavior and it should
not have happened in the first place.  As I've tried to point out, it's
entirely possible that these guys who named this things have good
science in there (despite lack of any locality info), but because of the
taint or doubt that surrounds the whole thing, their science is tainted
as well.  Publishing of stolen specimens should never be allowed.  It
has nothing to do with snobbery, or academics vs commercial, etc.  It is
a moral issue; stolen specimens should be returned to their country,
province, state, county, parish, or whatever, properly housed, curated
and then studied/described.  You know Philip Currie, Mark Norell and
many others have been following the rules when it comes to field work in
Mongolia and China for over a decade now with amazing results.
Shockingly, specimens don't have to get smuggled out of these countries
to be published on!  As the aforementioned paleontologists have
demonstrated, following the rules, working with said countries, and
returning the specimens when the descriptions are done has results in
hundreds of excellent peer reviewed articles....just open any Nature,
Science, JVP and the list goes on and on...  

Scott Williams
Burpee Museum

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-DINOSAUR@usc.edu [mailto:owner-DINOSAUR@usc.edu] On Behalf
Of Dann Pigdon
Sent: Tuesday, February 03, 2009 4:30 PM
To: dinosaur@usc.edu
Subject: Re: Minotaurasaurus controversy

Quoting robins@ualberta.ca:

> It is terrible about the provenance of the specimen, because it is  
> scientifically important. But the problem with publishing on a  
> specimen like this is that it will encourage illegal trade in fossils.

I seriously doubt that illegal fossil dealers care whether or not papers
get published about the 
material or not. Unless of course the author's state in the article that
they're on the lookout for 
more material and are willing to pay almost any amount, no questions
asked. Even if illegal fossil 
dealers did read scientific journals, somehow I doubt such a statement
would make it through peer-

Plenty of specimens have been described from museum collections with
little or no provenance 
data (Dyslocosaurus comes to mind). Come to think of it, anything
sitting around in a museum for 
a long time may well date back to the days when fossil collecting
involved fighting off the local 
indigenous people, or simply taking things without asking because it was
for the 'greater good' 
(Elgin marbles). Should we not study and publish such specimens, despite
the fact that their 
scientific value is not diminished by their method of acquisition?


Dann Pigdon
GIS / Archaeologist              http://geo_cities.com/dannsdinosaurs
Melbourne, Australia             http://heretichides.soffiles.com