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AW: Having your ideas published without attribution, and having your names with priority ignored



> So, Gao et al. have a paper out in the new JVP issue with
> the major conclusion "Examination of the characters used to
> diagnose other named sapeornithid species reveals that such
> diagnoses have incorporated morphologies that are influenced
> by either taphonomy or ontogeny. Based on qualitative and
> quantitative comparisons between the new specimen and other
> sapeornithid species, we argue that all other named
> sapeornithids are junior synonyms of S. chaoyangensis." 
> Does that sound familiar to anyone?  Moreover they are the
> latest and one the most egregious examples of workers
> utterly ignoring Omnivoropteryx and Omnivoropterygidae, the
> latter of which has four years priority over
> Sapeornithidae.  More here- 
> http://theropoddatabase.blogspot.com/2012/08/having-your-ideas-published-without.html
> .  Thoughts?

Considering that no apparent plagiarism is found at least in the case of 
_Didactylornis_ (didn't check the others, but for _D._ e.g. your reference to 
Archie is conspicuously absent, and vice versa their "these apparent 
differences are taphonomic" line of argument) I'd wager they simply failed at 
Google.

Thus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanlon's_razor.

Did you try to contact them? If it's an innocuous mistake, it is easy enough to 
give you due credit. JVP publishes short communications, so it is not a 
technical problem to submit a note to that effect ("Postscript to..." or 
"Addendum to..."*). Especially since you use the same material evidence as they 
do, yet analyze it somewhat differently, PLUS they use the vernacular (but 
technically incorrect) nomina, so your conclusions represent a significant 
addendum and corrigendum to their work as published.

It may be worthwhile, while you're at it, to offer to do such an addendum in 
collaboration, should they lack the time or such. These things tend to be 
low-priority except in cases of overt, deliberate misconduct, "oh, I'll fix it 
in the follow-up paper" and then it is forgotten.

Consider it this way: a freebie option to get a peer-reviewed publication out 
of a day's work or so. Addenda/corrigenda to published papers tend to get 
fast-tracked through peer review, so publication is almost guaranteed and 
arguments with reviewers are cut short. Getting your website credited in a 
major journal is not too shabby either, and will likely yield some new readers 
(hopefully preventing such errors in the future).


Experimental evidence: a friend once discovered a new ciliate, but as he was 
doing the write-up for publication it was apparently published by another team, 
completely independently and from a widely distant type locality. He was 
understandably incensed, but I talked him into publishing nonetheless (his data 
were more comprehensive than those published in the description - and besides, 
it was highly relevant, because as published it was held to be a lacustrine 
paleoendemic, whereas his samples were riverine and from the other side of the 
planet). 
Eventually it was all for the better, because when he contacted the other team 
and they compared their unpublished data, lo and behold it was not just "a 
remarkable range extension" but "a new flagship [gen. et sp.]" after all.


Regards,

Eike

* Luckily, their title uses "sapeornithids", which is legitimate. Otherwise it 
would have to be something like "Addendum to: Gao, Chiappe, Zhang, Pomeroy, 
Shen, Chinsamy and Walsh, 2012. A subadult specimen of the Early Cretaceous 
bird Sapeornis chaoyangensis and a taxonomic reassessment of Omnivoropterygidae 
(non Sapeornithidae)"...

PS: make sure to compliment them on their fine analysis BUT "unfortunately" 
they "seem to have missed" your work, which "is probably understandable since 
it was not published in the peer-reviewed literature" or some such ;-)
I agree that it is an issue (and they *ought* to have not overlooked it - *I* 
know your site well enough and in such cases default to it, and I'm just a 
biogeographer with no formal background in paleo except what you pick up via 
geosci) but technically it's probably a 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clerical_error...