Friday, June 08, 2007

Putting my money where my open access mouth is

Oh, geez, now that I see it on the page that doesn't look wholesome at all.

No, no, this isn't a post about a new profession as a man-whore (I refuse to blog about that). It's about my theses--BS, MS, and PhD--and the fact that they are now freely available to all. Even the unpublished parts of my diss. I guess if we see a New Mexico Museum bulletin on dinosaur air sacs my naivete will be revealed.

Many thanks to my webmaster, Mike Taylor, whom I owe an improbable amount of good sushi for keeping up my other web presence.

Dr. Vector Sets 'Em Straight: Naming New Taxa Edition

I have to get something off my chest. It is just flat retarded when people name new taxa in theses and dissertations. Let me immediately qualify that: it is just fine to describe new taxa in theses and dissertations. Encouraged, actually. It's a wonderful learning experience. Just don't stick the actual name in. Always in motion is the future, and frankly you don't know for certain whether you are going to get around to publishing the new taxon, or perhaps get creamed by a Mac truck while you cross the road to rescue a kitten. And if you choose the kitten / gruesome death route, or simply get sidetracked by family responsibilities, a job, or whatever, then we'll be stuck with another one of these crappy situations in which a taxon named in a thesis is not properly established in the literature. Maybe never, maybe just not for a long time (Neuquensaurus, anyone?).

Look, I don't mean to beat my chest about how completely awesome I am, but sometimes it just can't be avoided. Here's the Systematic Paleontology section from my undergraduate thesis:

Order SAURISCHIA Seeley 1888
Suborder SAUROPODOMORPHA Huene 1932
Infraorder SAUROPODA Marsh 1878
Family BRACHIOSAURIDAE Riggs 1904
Gen. et sp. nov.
[name to be added in formal publication]


See what I did there? The whole thesis is as close to submission-ready as I could make it*, with this one little difference. Oh, and in the text of the thesis I referred to the animal by the holotype specimen number instead of by the name. That's it.

* The reason it looked so different when it finally came out is that it had been chopped down, reformatted, reviewed three times, and rejected twice before it saw the light of day. Also, I had gotten access to a CT scanner, and that changed things a bit too. Tell you all about it later.

Okay, I can't really take credit for that, Rich Cifelli told me to do it that way. But now I've told you, and you can tell others, and pretty soon this whole problem will be cleared up forever.

Next post: how to fix global warming and prevent dust-bunnies from forming under the couch.

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3 Comments:

Blogger TheBrummell said...

But now I've told you, and you can tell others, and pretty soon this whole problem will be cleared up forever.

I hope you're right. I'm not a paleontologist, but am working on biodiversity, in invertebrates. As you're probably aware, lots of invertebrate taxa are very understudied, with the last signficant paper published on some phyla dating back decades. I fully expect to encounter such annoying semi-named species in my research.

I shall endeavor to take your advice, Dr. Vector, and not publish any new species names at all in my PhD.

9:18 AM  
Anonymous dinogami said...

Or, alternatively, pad your CV by publishing a short, preliminary description of the taxon ASAP to establish the name; then do the detailed work in the thesis/dissertation (which become subsequent publications) and use the name freely. This seems to be the route lots of people take, although as a corollary to what Dr. V already said, there's a sad tendency for authors to perceive these "preliminary" publications as "definitive," even though they provide virtually no useful details, so nothing longer and more detailed gets published for years and years, if ever (Suchomimus, Afrovenator, Jobaria, etc., anyone?)

8:27 AM  
Blogger Mike Taylor said...


... so nothing longer and more detailed gets published for years and years, if ever (Suchomimus, Afrovenator, Jobaria, etc., anyone?)


Don't get me started.

3:17 AM  

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