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RE: The myth of coding from specimens firsthand and the untapped resource of photos

Great post Mickey.

I fully support any kind of drive to get more digital data (e.g. photos)
shared freely, online.

Photos are an excellent case of a piece of data that *everyone* has on
their computers, that could be of use (academic, educational,
whatever...) to everyone. Why don't we share these more Openly and
freely with everyone? Isn't this what Science is about? Documenting in
detail our surroundings (with e.g. photos), to disseminate knowledge and
educate the rest of the world?

If there are barriers to sharing photos online surely we should examine
and discuss what these are? I for one feel that there are NO 'technical'
barriers. Even the very highest resolution photos can easily be shared
(on a massive scale) over the internet these days e.g.
http://www.flickr.com/ http://picasa.google.com/ etc...
contra what Jaime Headden said "time to prepare the photographic
database would be long, and costly, and certainly involve massive
amounts of patience" - I think it could be virtually FREE, easy and with
little or no setup time. Specimen photo databases already exist e.g.
http://www.morphbank.net/ and would *love* more photos. Albert
Prieto-Marquez has done a great job of uploading innumerate quality
dinosaur specimen photos there.

I'd like to know more about the barriers of 'Museum Permission' - what
these are, and why they exist (with full moral, and logical
justification too). I understand keenness to 'hide' specimens that are
in the process of being described by someone else, but if a taxon has
already been well-described in scientific literature - why not let
high-res photos of it appear online? Is Scientific Research and
Education not absolutely central to the mission statements of most
museums? Perhaps private museums are different, and might care most
about profit, but public institutions should be better focused.
Anyway, a bunch of friends and I recently wrote an Open Letter addressed
to all voicing our support for increased digitisation, and open sharing
of *ALL* types of digital research data, specifically including photos.

You can find it here: http://supportpalaeodataarchiving.co.uk/
There was also a Nature article about it [not paywalled, free to view]:
'Fossil data enter the web period' by Ewen Callaway.

Many people have signed in full support of this letter, including (in no
particular order)... Michael J Benton, Randall Irmis, Mark A Wilson,
Wolfgang Kiessling, Graeme T Lloyd, Peter J Wagner, Michael P Taylor,
Paul Upchurch, Fernando Archuby, Robert Sansom, Mark Sutton, Phillip
Novack-Gottshall, Martin Brazeau, Marcello Ruta, Lee Hsiang Liow, Jason
Dunlop, Matt Wedel, Sam W Heads, Paul Tafforeau, Susan Turner, Jacques
Verniers, Antonia Checa, Andrew A Farke, Carl Simpson, Bruce Runnegar,
Faysal Bibi, Francesco Santini, Michal Kowalewski, Zhijie Jack Tseng,
Felix Marx, Colin Palmer...

If you want to see real change happen, with regard to photo sharing (and
other data sharing) I suggest you think about reading and signing this
letter, so that our collective opinion can be seen and counted.



Ross Mounce
PhD Student
Fossils, Phylogeny and Macroevolution Research Group
University of Bath
4 South Building, Lab 1.07