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RE: How is withholding access to published specimens ethical?

Thanks for all the good responses so far.

Andy Farke wrote-

> On one level, I understand where the museums are coming from - they
> don't want someone else to profit from the images by making an
> unauthorized coffee table book, or ad campaign for a new brand of
> vodka, or whatever. Museums are cash-strapped, and I don't blame them
> for wanting a piece of any commercial products resulting from their
> collection. I can also somewhat understand where the researchers are
> coming from - although my philosophy is that after 30 years, you sorta
> lose any moral high ground on restricting photographic access.

I could understand where museums were coming from if they only restricted 
commercial use.  When I visit the AMNH collections, the rules are no 
distributing photos of undescribed specimens, and I just have to credit the 
museum if I publish photos of described specimens (online or in print).  
Perfectly acceptable.  But I would like to see a defensable reason to restrict 
research use of photos if the museum claims to acting in the interest of 

Similarly, if you're a researcher who has published a taxon and written a 
monograph/thesis on it, I could see wanting to wait a few years until you can 
get it published before allowing others publication rights, since a lot of time 
was spent writing the monograph.  But I still don't see how restricting access 
is useful.

Mike Taylor wrote-

> > Hmm. . .this sounds like the sort of issue that a major
> > paleontological society might incorporate into its ethics statement.
> HA!

I second that grumpy ha.  "After reviewing the case, Researcher X claims he 
should have sole rights to know about his published specimen in perpetuity, 
while Researcher Y claims the specimen is useful to the community and should be 
allowed to be photographed.  Because each has a different take on reality, 
we've decided to throw up our hands..." ;)

David Marjanovic wrote-

> *Doleserpeton*, in contrast, was in Bolt's safe (or so I hear).

Well, that IS worse.

> If that's true, and if there are no medical reasons that prevent him
> from talking to people in general (I have no idea), it's _evil_ and
> makes me all hulky and smashy.

Well, I don't think Perez-Moreno is the one being evil.  The specimen's not his 
to speak for any longer, and I don't think he forbade anyone from distributing 
his thesis.  It's not like Charig, who banned anyone from distributing his 
thesis, even after his death.  So to this day, you have to visit London and 
write notes if you want to know about archosauriforms described in the 1950s.

> Judging from *Doleserpeton*, let's wait for Kubota's thesis or whatever
> is going on. If it turns out that nothing is going on, start prodding
> the museum...

First I'd like to know if he really is redescribing Adasaurus.  There was a 
2006 SVP abstract with Barsbold, but I've never received a reply when emailing 

Brad McFeeters wrote-

> Barsbold and Perez-Moreno might not want photos of those specimens 
distributed, but how can they possibly enforce that?  Permission is an 
issue if you wanted to publish the photos in a paper, but in practice 
anyone can anonymously distribute anything online.

Well sure, but the problem is other experts enforce it.  We have a system where 
it's seen as unethical to distribute this stuff, and each person who gets 
access feels obliged to retain it (if for no other reason, than to not be 
denied access next time).  Imagine if this happened with pdfs, and authors 
routinely said "no I'm not allowed to send you one, but you can pay to download 
one from the journal's website".  That's technically how it's supposed to work 
anyway, it's just that most of us bypass it since the publishers can't enforce 
it and are seen as unethical.  Yet the situation for pdfs is much better 
because at least you CAN choose to pay $35 and get the paper even if everyone 
refused to send you it for free.  But that's not so with Adasaurus or 
Pelecanimimus data.  Hell, I'd pay $100 for Perez-Moreno's thesis, but there's 
no way to purchase European theses.

Mickey Mortimer