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Re: So what are the rules about SVP and publishing? Or talking about presentations?

2009/10/21 David Marjanovic <david.marjanovic@gmx.at>:
>>  2) Abstracts (and presentations) are only preliminary. Many a
>>  discussion on the DML about an abstract or presentation has been
>>  later revealed to be hopelessly premature, with rampant speculation
>>  on a topic for which there is little supporting information. Hence
>>  the frequent reminder to "wait for the paper."
> Yeah. Some abstracts never turn into a paper because they are simply wrong.
> For instance, there's the case of an SVP meeting abstract that reported a
> crazy phalangeal formula for the foot of a ceratopsian: 4-4-3-3-0. (Four
> bones in the first toe, four in the second toe...) Would have had major
> implications for... for evolution in general, basically, because phalangeal
> formulae are remarkably highly conserved since the Early Carboniferous at
> least. Later it turned out (mentioned in a parenthesis in a published paper,
> I think) it was just disarticulated material that had been mismounted by
> someone incompetent, and the foot actually has 2-3-4-5-0 as usual. (Note how
> both formulae add up to 14 phalanges in total.) Oopsie.
> SVP meeting abstracts do not undergo peer review (I think some editor looks
> at them, but that's it), and almost none of the submissions are rejected.


Speaking as the proud holder of an unbroken three-year streak of SVP
meeting rejections, I beg to differ.  This year I got to talk to a
disinterested oiutsider who was at the host institution when most of
the abstract vetting was going on, and who got an interesting view on
the process.  It's much, much more rigorous than I'd imagined.  Each
abstract is passed to five reviewers who each assign it a numeric
score; the reviewers know who the first author is but none of the
junior authors.  If the scores and in consensus, they're allowed to
stand, but if they differ wildly then the abstract is discussed in a
meeting between the reviewers in an attempt to reconcile the differing
views.  Based on that, the scores may be changed.  The resulting
scores for each abstract give a rough ordering.  The best ones are
retailed, the worst are discarded, and the hazier set in the middle
get picked on not according to how they fit in with the rest of the

So, much as I would like to think that my own outstanding records is
due to an anti-Portsmouth conspiracy by a sinister league of American
universities, it just ain't so.

(All of this does rather leave open the question the ceratopsian-toe
abstract got through this process, though.  Maybe it was a while back,
when the selection process was less rigorous?)