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



Mickey Mortimer wrote:

<The point you didn't seem to get from my post is that coding from the 
specimens themselves is largely a MYTH.  You can do it for specimens that are 
held at a museum you work at or live close to, or those you have on loan.  But 
the vast majority of specimens are stuck in museums far around the world, and I 
don't care how big your grant is, no one has the money to spend weeks on end at 
each museum in different continents, and then do it again after they have more 
characters and new taxa have been discovered.  Instead, if you're lucky you can 
visit most relevent museums and take pictures of most relevent specimens at 
each, then depend on those photos to code from.  This is how things work in the 
real world, and this is how most professionals have to do it.  Your preferred, 
best option is a pipe dream which no one can or does attain.>

  I never said you had to do a systematics review paper by yourself, and for 
this reason. No one should, ever. But when it comes to comparative work, you 
never have to be fully comprehensive, it just helps; a "reasonable" case for 
the quality of apomorphies can certainly (and is currently used as) sufficient 
to describe comparative uniqueness. Ordinarily, not all animals are fully 
unique from any pair of taxa, they always have _some_ similarities. It should 
thus only be necessary to demonstrate this relatively. But systematics? Group 
effort, think tank, five specialists all examining all of the material 
discussed among them in person. Gosh .. imagine a full on review of your 
favorite clade by all of the exemplar specialists; each subset can be written 
by the examiner(s) in question.

  You know, like the Sauropod Working Group ... for everything.

Cheers,

Jaime A. Headden
The Bite Stuff (site v2)
http://qilong.wordpress.com/

"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 
Backs)





----------------------------------------
> Date: Thu, 2 Jun 2011 00:57:24 -0700
> From: mickey_mortimer111@msn.com
> To: dinosaur@usc.edu
> Subject: RE: The myth of coding from specimens firsthand and the untapped 
> resource of photos
>
>
> Jaime Headden wrote-
>
> > 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 study.
>
> The point you didn't seem to get from my post is that coding from the 
> specimens themselves is largely a MYTH.  You can do it for specimens that are 
> held at a museum you work at or live close to, or those you have on loan.  
> But the vast majority of specimens are stuck in museums far around the world, 
> and I don't care how big your grant is, no one has the money to spend weeks 
> on end at each museum in different continents, and then do it again after 
> they have more characters and new taxa have been discovered.  Instead, if 
> you're lucky you can visit most relevent museums and take pictures of most 
> relevent specimens at each, then depend on those photos to code from.  This 
> is how things work in the real world, and this is how most professionals have 
> to do it.  Your preferred, best option is a pipe dream which no one can or 
> does attain.
>
> > 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.
>
> Do museums actually charge for access and/or photography?  You're correct 
> that the AMNH didn't, and if I recall a thread on here or vrtpaleo earlier, 
> it seemed that most don't except some in third world countries.
> I know some are protective of their specimens (e.g. Taylor's post on the 
> BMNH), but I do wonder how museums expect to make money or expect us to make 
> money from photos.  We pay to publish papers, not the reverse.  Even if 
> museums make money from the publicity of newspaper articles when their 
> specimens are described in Nature or Science, having photographs distributed 
> between professionals has no impact on that.
>
> > 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_).
>
> Here we definitely agree.
>
> > 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 never suggested this, though I would love it of course.  I'm talking about 
> all of us who already have photos sharing them at no cost to ourselves 
> besides the time and effort to upload them online.  To suggest we "just wait" 
> until we have the resources to do something nobody has done is patronizing.  
> Look at any large theropod matrix- TWG, Rauhut 2003, Benson 2010, Maryanska 
> et al. 2002, Chiappe 2001, Choiniere et al. 2010, Smith et al. 2007, etc..  
> None of them has seen all the taxa they use firsthand, and I bet most of the 
> taxa they did see were coded from photos they took, not coded while the 
> specimens were in their hands.  And this means we can all do things at a 
> level close to what the professionals do if we set up the resource.
>
> Mickey Mortimer
>