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

  I want to make it perfectly clear that I support the idea, in general, of a 
shared photographic database. This, in isolation, is a good thing(tm).

  The problem I am trying to point out is that this is not a solution to the 
particular problem Mickey raises, it simply makes the problem (that of 
confirmation and study) less arduous. You absolutely should examine the 
material first hand, and there is absolutely no reason I can find that a photo 
serves _better_ than this with the sole exception of the material being 
destroyed or stolen, and thus totally unavailable. I should never be relegated 
to accepting second best, and that's what photos [in a vacuum] as study 
materials are, and thus preferential weight should be placed on first-hand 

  The second aspect of this problem is one of professionals and institutions 
sharing what is, generally, either private or copyrighted material. And note 
well, an institution owns the materials in its possession, or the state 
controlling it does, and thus laws exist which state that photos of said 
material, unless otherwise stated, are owned by that institution or state. 
Telling these people to part with them, or convince them to do so, when said 
institutions/states often develop these copyright protocols to ensure income, 
would be a problem in both international and interstate commerce. It could even 
be theft. 

  I am not saying this is an ideal situation. As a scientist (or so I'd like to 
dream) I think the ideal is toward a more communal organization, in which free 
access and free sharing becomes the norm. But this has hurdles, and one of them 
is the sense of property. An institution owns a specimen, and thus has an 
interest in the work done on it, and any scientist asking for access often must 
fill out forms indicating what the material will be used for, and what will be 
done with it; access can incur a fee, and photos an additional one. This brings 
money to the institution, and many of you guys know and accept it, even if you 
grumble about it. Mickey was fortunate to get in (for free, I think) to the 
AMNH collections; photos he took were not (I understand) "taxed," but this is a 
situation that can be uncommon elsewhere, especially outside of the 
"enlightened" nations.

  Similarly, material that is undergoing study may be subject to embargo, as 
with all derivatives (photos included) of this work. Scientists can be 
possessive louts, and this is not intended as an insult, but a polite nudge. 
This material, and photos, would not be shared even when the institution is 
willing, because the workers are very picky about it. This sense advocates 
adversely against the argument for sharing data regardless of whether those 
workers would share _afterward_. There is no reason if you would share later, 
why you wouldn't share earlier, unless it had something to do with a sense of 
priopriety (and this is where embargoes from journals like _Nature_ and 
_Science_ come in, when it becomes about name recognition, some rediculous 
thing called "impact factor," and most especially _MONEY_).

  I absolutely wholeheartedly support -- and would contribute -- photo material 
I have not been either expressly asked not to, or note copyright preventing me 
from doing so. It would be dishonest to share something I said I wouldn't, or 
even share something I _shouldn't_ (legally). But I note that the value of 
those who advocate against this, those who would gain income from it, are 
impaired by this behavior. It matters not _how much_ they become impaired.

  On the matter of institutions sending out researchers or having a database 
prepared to reduce researchers' time traveling, again -- first hand examination 
should be the norm and the desire, and photos are a poor second best; you 
should never opt for second best if you can get first. It may take time, 
patience, and influx of funds to so so, but you could just _wait_. I think the 
very sense of propriety listed above has made people too _competitive_ in this 
field, and a sharing argument would be adverse to this. Communal research and 
idea sharing are things that are _not preferred_ when institutions are trying 
to better themselves and their workers over anything else. why should I share 
my photos, when that will just give you an edge in this area of research? 

  Tell me that THESE issues will be solved before said database goes live, and 
I will do everything I can to support this.


Jaime A. Headden
The Bite Stuff (site v2)

"Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969)

"Ever since man first left his cave and met a stranger with a
different language and a new way of looking at things, the human race
has had a dream: to kill him, so we don't have to learn his language or
his new way of looking at things." --- Zapp Brannigan (Beast With a Billion 

> Date: Wed, 1 Jun 2011 12:20:00 -0300
> Subject: Re: The myth of coding from specimens firsthand and the untapped 
> resource of photos
> From: augustoharo@gmail.com
> To: qi_leong@hotmail.com
> CC: david.marjanovic@gmx.at; Dinosaur.Mailing.List@listproc.usc.edu
> 2011/6/1 Jaime Headden :
> >
> >   False dichotomy. Either or, the institutions pay. Grants for researchers 
> > are granted, specifically, based on a small group or an individual, not an 
> > entire museum, and when the latter MIGHT occur (as in the Smithsonian) it 
> > must share this with a variety of other groups, rather than pay for the 
> > technology to photograph things. Then you'd have to pay for their time, and 
> > the processing, etc. It's not about everyone in a museum getting their cell 
> > phones and taking pictures, then sharing them; you also have to train 
> > people HOW to take pictures, HOW to process the digital or film copies, and 
> > the time involved. Or ... you can do it yourself on a travel grant. Time, 
> > effort and money must be expended and in largely equal shares. You think, 
> > though, that the institution pays researchers to run around, but they 
> > don't. Sometimes, like in Mickey's case, he had to do it on his own dime, 
> > and so did many other, and so will many more. Your institution will not pay 
> > for everything.
> >
> Some points:
> First, standardized photographs are desirable but of course any photo
> can serve, so a huge amount of photographying education is not
> necessary to get already useful results. I supose most people takes
> photographs of fossils in all the angles they can when said fossils
> are available. In addition, as some homologous surfaces or structures
> commonly change in orientation, standardized views would not be always
> useful. Vive la difference!
> Second, it would not be necessary to travel so much if the scientists
> or amateurs in each locality take photos of the fossils in the museum
> of their city, to latter distribute. Photos are cheap by now, and if a
> photo in a given view is required, it may be asked for to the local
> guy which can access to the fossils. He may take a lot trying for at
> least one to fit in the view he was requested to take.