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Re: The place of Books in Research

On Nov 12, 2010, at 3:53 PM, Jason Brougham wrote:

> Hello all,
> I see both sides of this issue. Of course there are books by single authors 
> or small groups thereof that contain important information and insight. Not 
> every good paper or report is peer - reviewed, and some very weak papers do 
> get through peer review unimproved.
> I would humbly suggest that, even if peer review is out of the question, it 
> can be helpful to collaborate. Collaboration can help an author to see their 
> own work from a more objective perspective, and correct weaknesses that might 
> not have been obvious before publication. I can imagine even just having a 
> colleague read the manuscript could help a great deal.
> And I concur with you about Greg Paul. He has been a hero and inspiration of 
> mine for 22 years. No one has as many photographic details about dinosaur 
> skeletons stored in their brain as he does.
> -Jason
> On Nov 12, 2010, at 3:27 PM, ralphchapman wrote:
>> Hey Gangoids:
>> Now that the sometimes nasty discussions on feathers have temporarily
>> started to relax a bit, I wanted to bring up something that was at the
>> original core of the debate and get your opinions because I really want to
>> know what people think and, personally, have a very open mind on a final
>> conclusion - specifically, what is the place of books in the ongoing
>> research stream?
>> I'm not talking about edited volumes with journal-like papers. Most of these
>> seem to be getting peer review these days and it is certainly reasonable
>> that those papers should be a full partner in the ongoing stream.
>> But what about general books by a single author? Greg was royally po'd that
>> some of his work in Dinosaurs of the Air was not considered or mentioned by
>> Nudds and Dyke but does he have a reasonable argument? The research
>> literature has been getting incredibly voluminous over the past decade with
>> multiple hundreds of papers coming out on dinosaurs a year. It is very
>> difficult just to keep up with the onslaught even in relatively specific
>> areas. Now these are just standard peer-reviewed journal articles (and those
>> in edited volumes) and the pace of publication is really breathtaking given
>> that some of us can remember years when only a handful of papers - if that -
>> would come out during a year on any specific topic. I think we can agree
>> that these peer-reviewed papers must be considered and probably be a bit
>> more understanding if an author leaves one out because they missed it. That
>> is, of course, what the reviewers should help with by pointing out those
>> papers that are very relevant and were missed, but reviewers can be flaky -
>> as anyone who has ever submitted a paper knows.
>> But what about books like DOTA? There are lots of books coming out as well
>> and they tend to long and, in many cases - Greg's books perhaps a bit of an
>> exception - expensive and difficult to get in something like a pdf format.
>> Further, do these books really go through a comparable review process and do
>> they tend to do the same job of documenting the ideas in them and giving the
>> references that they should? My copy of DOTA is still packed after a recent
>> move so I can't go back and check right away but this is really a key point
>> about books in general. Do researchers really have a responsibility to cite
>> a large and mostly "popular" book like DOTA like they would a refereed
>> paper? I would suggest we leave Greg as a specific author out of this and
>> treat this as a general discussion - I have enjoyed his books and am making
>> absolutely no suggestions of his or his books wanting in quality etc. Just,
>> as more and more of these things come out, what are our responsibilities as
>> researchers and where within all these books does it end. A
>> juvenile-oriented book on pterosaurs (note: not what Greg did for DOTA and
>> the Field Guide) might still have some unique, cool ideas. So what do you
>> think?
>> I will say, especially as morphometrician and paleontologist, that some
>> books have been real seminal in my development and have been understandably
>> cited a zillion times - specifically, On Growth and Form (D'Arcy Thompson of
>> course), Simpson's Major Features of Evolution and Olson and Miller's
>> Morphological Integration to name a few. Probably, for me, Gould's Ontogeny
>> and Phylogeny as well, although that is a bit different as it was written by
>> a friend of mine. I would also point to Raup and Stanley.
>> So was Greg right to be PO'd or is this inevitable as the paper trail
>> (including virtual journals) gets bigger and bigger. And let me repeat
>> myself, Greg is an old friend and I have always respected him and his work
>> so assume what I recall from DOTA, that it is a quality piece of work and
>> keep answers more generic and, of course, thoughtful.
>> Thanks, Ralph
>> Ralph E. Chapman
>> Deck & Chapman LLC
>> New Mexico Virtualization, LLC
>> 102 El Morro St.
>> Los Alamos, NM 87544
>> (505) 672-2240
>> (505) 500-5266 (Cell)
>> ralphchapman@earthlink.net
>> ralphchapman@nmvirt.com
> Jason Brougham
> Senior Principal Preparator
> American Museum of Natural History
> jaseb@amnh.org
> (212) 496 3544

Jason Brougham
Senior Principal Preparator
American Museum of Natural History
(212) 496 3544