Happenings


Work eludes me; pneumonia plagues me; and the troubles of family follow.

I sit here working out the possible implications of laying out much of my work that I want to do with oviraptorids, setting out possible muscle masses, moments, and lines of action and work out mechanically the actions of an oviraptorid jaw — by far, the single most engrossing thing I want to do. If I do, I end up doing exactly what i hear many others in paleo worry about: getting “scooped,” having their processes of thought or novel experimentation or insights rendered as though original to the reader. Perhaps I quibble a little too much.

Science is a process by which people learn and reveal — to themselves, to others — and eventually learn from the fallacies pf their results. And there will be fallacies. So Science wins only when it is exposed, not bottled up in dark caves. When Newton shined a candleflame through a prism, it’s not that he wanted to keep the results secret (or that he was the first and rushed to say he was) but that he wanted to expose the light inherent to the candle, and figure out what was going on. You cannot do that in darkness, and that’s sort of an essential truth.

I think, in typical Zen fashion, that the result is what matters. I don’t need my name attached to an idea, and am glad instead to be a part of the process, even if a footstool. (See? footstools are useful! You cannot climb on the backs of giants without a leg up!) I don’t need the concordant fame or attention or grant money. I know some want it, and that is the only way they are ever going to get it, and they do this to survive, profess, and carry on. If the process of keeping one’s job is a loss of a portion of one’s soul (a deal Faust respected damned be to the consequences) then that is their choice. But it becomes difficult to reconcile this with the idea, the philosophy, that is espoused: that Science’s goal is to make better of Humanity. We can say to ourselves that nothing we do can, by itself, change the course of what evil a person can commit; but we hope that in the course of its doing, Science betters the lives of others, and shields and shelters more.

I cannot have this ideal, and hold others to it, much as it plagues me to see work stolen in some casual sense: The profession of Science requires progressive revelation by its own actions; Science as both God and penitent. Those people do further Science by some level of commission. Where I stand — stood? — is on the razor-thin margin between wanting Science done, and being its instrument. Observer and doer. Where should I stand? Where do you?

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8 Responses to Happenings

  1. Mike Taylor says:

    You already know what I am going to say, of course. But just for the record:

    Go ahead. Publish your work on this blog as you go. Apart from anything else, the blog itself is a permanent record of what you’ve been doing, and anyone who scooped your work would be clearly seen as what they are — so clearly that even the SVP Ethics Committee wouldn’t be able to miss it.

    If you want a bit more insurance, wrap up chunks of your best work into manuscripts and reposit them in PeerJ, whence they can be cited.

    And of course what you should really do is publish formally, in a peer-reviewed venue. PLOS ONE will give a no-questions-asked fee waiver if (as I suspect) you have no funding, and your work will benefit from peer-review. Really, you should have done this years ago. Why not do it now?

    • Thanks, Mike! Yes, I guessed what you’d say, if you said something, but that doesn’t lessen my appreciation for a vocal response. I also know I need to publish, but I have a tendency to want to be thorough, and simply mapping out muscles and such itself seems like merely the first step of a larger, more structured project, like measuring a fossil is to describing it to discussing it, etc.. I will see what I can do once I am done. I have some ideas, and you and Nick Gardner have been very supportive of this “blog your work, then f**king publish it!” discussion.

      • Mike Taylor says:

        Thanks.

        Mapping the muscles is itself a project wholly worthy of publication. Going on to draw interpretations from that data is also important, but needn’t be the same paper. My advice is just to get the first one out there. Once you’ve done that, broken the back of it, the subsequent ones won’t seem so intimidating.

  2. I go through the same conundrum. I work on some projects with others who are completely paranoid about getting scooped, so I generally stay mum about that research. (Of course, that’s the stuff I want to blog about because I have questions that need answers!) My own research, almost entirely unfunded, I like to blog about. The feedback is always positive and helpful. I need to blog about my research more often…

  3. Sonya Paul says:

    HI, first time replying go easy on me ;o)
    Without people like yourself we would all still be drawing our raptors as skinny stretched skin reptiles. The average child and general artist does not know what the current correct look for a dinosaur is, without sites like these where they can read and finds out ‘velociraptor was covered in feathers’ they would turn to old books and continue to draw fast running lizards.
    After reading Mike Taylor’s reply I seriously can’t believe you haven’t already published in peer reviewed publications.
    Take satisfaction in the fact you are helping a generation of artists and youngsters (and older artists) understand the truly wonderful change happening to their much beloved Dinosaurs and are helping them improve their knowledge and understanding.

  4. Getting my work stolen is also something that worries me, but I’ve developed several measures against it.

    Hope the other problems get solved too.

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