I Feel Sheepish


Sheepishness, indeed!A few days back I posted on Naish and Sweetman’s work regarding a vertebra from southern England and Darren Naish’s personal blogged comments implying it might really be an oviraptorosaur. I posted at length because I had time to do what I thought was a decent job analyzing the reasoning on why it might be an oviraptorosaur, largely because it wasn’t actually published yet. Darren’s lamented that he dislikes “online before print” issues, as has his compatriot Mike Taylor, though both know the advent of online publishing will eventually supercede paper. Despite this, I posted my response to Darren’s comments intending this to remark on when the paper was published. On the Dinosaur Mailing List, I wrote:

Oh, goody. It’s finally published. I have a rather fundamental response to this, promised in my discussion with Darren at TetZoo. Tiny, yes … but there’s only so much you can say about a vertebra (and like Mike, I think more could have been done with it).

I jumped the gun, and hence the sheep up there, because Cretaceous Research had this unfortunate effect of producing a fully paginated, typeset and print-ready work around three months in advance! To verify the date, I checked myself last month by going here and noting that the issue in question (2011, Vol. 32, Iss. 4) is not due to print publication until August. I then promptly forgot this.

This might not seem such a harsh issue, save that I try to be consistent; this to me is no different from running off to splash new taxonomy before print (the period in which it is considered “available” does not start until the paper copy is released). If it’s not okay to bandy about taxonomy before its time, for the sake of an official availability date, then it should not be okay to bandy about any print copy prior to its “publication date.” The advance online release of work in some journals at this point confuses the heck out of me, on why they would create a disparate skew in the dates, although I can understand the need to get press time to digest or journalize the material. Instead, this is bandied to the general public (you know, chumps like me), and it can often hit the authors themselves sideways when they are preparing press releases on their own in time with the official paper release. How awkward.

So this is my mea culpa, in that I did not double, double check the release date, but the damage is done.

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6 Responses to I Feel Sheepish

  1. nick gardner says:

    I’m pretty sure this isn’t a big deal, considering Naish has blogged about it on TetZoo, the proverbial cat is out of the bag.

    • Well, I’d like to think that if I said I won’t discuss papers that aren’t published, I won’t do so. I have cited work that was released online ahead of print before, but have never actually discussed the papers in any volume before. I’m trying not to fudge my own boundaries.

  2. When Naish blogs about it himself AND the story made it to over 60 news services (look up “smallest dinosaur Naish” in Google news), there’s absolutely no need to feel regrettful. There’s no damage to do. The very fact you wrote this post at all is frankly ridiculous and gives the impression you care far more about appearing proper than about any actual consequences. Might be time to rethink what the purpose behind your self-imposed boundaries is.

    • Understand that my argument is about my own personal ethic when it comes to being honest (I’ll never do this thing that is frowned upon) and consistent in that honesty. I’ve got blog posts waiting for the release of papers that I’m sure both of us have read by now that are not validly published.

      You may personally feel that the object of my reticence in discussing the topic (which only arose because Cret. Res. did something they probably shouldn’t do, which Darren then had to jump through hoops himself to deal with) is ridiculous, but I do not. This is because of a finite ethic I’ve imposed and which I do not feel is improper in doing so. I think even YOU feel it’s improper to blab about work that authors themselves don’t want blabbed about, when journals “jump the gun” in doing it themselves, forcing the issue. Extend the scenario to taxonomy, and you get problems of another sort, but this doesn’t mean the non-taxonomic paper is okay to blab “ahead of time.” Cret. Res. is doing something that even JVP doesn’t (and shouldn’t) do, and that’s pretend there is a distinction between online and print publishing. One would feel that if you are going to do both, they should be synchronous, and if so, press releases and author commentary should be related to the “official” release, which in all cases is tied to the print form.

      I think this type of issue will just cause issues down the road, either forcing the alignment of print and online versions, or discarding the print altogether. But they nonetheless have ethical ripples in conduct, press, and how authors get blind-sided (as Darren was) when crap like this happens. Towing that line, the formal, official release date, is the better one ethically, and I think trying to validate any other time is improper.

  3. I admit my comment was a tad rude, Yet your ethic can only make sense if the author doesn’t want their paper publicized, so if they blog on it themselves, it’s free game for everyone else. If you posted on Brontomerus after the author stated their dismay it was published early online I would understand, but this is a different situation. Our concern should be tied to what the authors think, not some outdated concept of publication on wood products when almost all of us receive the paper via electrons.

    • Yet Darren only blogged on it when Cret. Res. jumped the gun. Normally, Darren and the other SV-POW! guys seem more inclined to preparing for the official release date for their own works. These are often tied to publicity releases from their respective institutions. Yes, Darren obligingly worked with Matt and both produced timely blog posts about it. But the nature of taxonomy should not be relevant. The small Chinle dinosaur with the procumbent teeth hasn’t been officially published, but its known and there’s press out about it, too. I simply do not draw a line between these two types of paper being spilt early. I could easily allow myself to discuss papers that aren’t “published” per se, save that they don’t involve taxonomy, but I wonder why I should stop there? I can discuss the unofficial but confirmed “published” nomenclature of the Chinle dinosaur, but I choose not to for a specific reason.

      However, that said, it should be interesting to crowd-source the editorial and review process on a paper….

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