Meet the Project Participants: Rob Taylor
Continuing our series of interviews with project participants, we’re now happy to introduce you to regular contributor Rob Taylor (no relation to Mike). Beyond Rob’s contributions to the ODP, many of you may know him for his work at The Theropod Archives – it’s a great resource for finding open access and public domain literature on those saurischian dinosaurs!
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What do you do (professionally)? Any other interesting facts?
I was born and raised in Watertown, New York, but recently settled in southeastern Pennsylvania after residing in Northern Virginia for a number of years. I’m 41, and work as a drug safety analyst, computer programmer, and database manager for a large health care IT company. Husband to Wendy – an aspiring author, ice hockey fan (with nigh onto encyclopedic knowledge of the sport, I might add), and possessor of particular fascinations with cephalopods and the Burgess Shale; father to Nick (age five, dinosaur enthusiast) and Katie (one and a half, budding dinosaur enthusiast). Katie is watching Dr. Scott and the Dinosaur Train as I type this.
And yes, count me among those who simply never outgrew their interests in dinosaurs. In 2004, seeking to further my knowledge on the subject, I began building a database of all known dinosaur and pterosaur genera, fleshing it out with whatever publicly available data I could find. It’s a project that has been rewarding on many levels. Ultimately, a partnership was forged with the Paleontological Research Institution in Ithaca, New York, where a prototype of the database was installed in their Museum of the Earth’s fossil discovery lab. Most importantly, the effort drove me to the primary literature for the first time, and allowed me to experience first-hand the benefits of open access.
Later, wanting to make my own contribution to the open access movement, I developed and launched The Theropod Archives web site. Increased work obligations have forced me to put the Archives on the back burner for a while, but followers of the project can be assured there is more to come. (There’s just the matter of a few ornithischian limb bone measurements to key in first!)
Why did you decide to participate in the ODP?
When I think about it, much of the effort I’ve put into my dinosaur projects has been about wanting to approximate the scientific experience. I’m grateful that there seems to be growing recognition among the scientific community that dedicated amateurs and knowledgeable enthusiasts might bring something to the table. Honestly, the opportunity to contribute to actual science – dinosaur science, no less! – is something I’ve always dreamed of. (And then there’s that carrot-on-a-stick offering of a publication credit dangling out front…)
So far, what has been the best part of the ODP for you, and why?
It’s the feeling of satisfaction that comes with making an actual contribution to science, coupled with a sense of excitement over being involved in a project that’s clearly breaking new ground.
What have you learned from your participation in the ODP?
Certainly those early tutorials were very useful in shoring up my knowledge of appendicular anatomy; however, the real surprise was in learning that I seem to absorb and retain a lot more when going at a scientific paper with a specific purpose in mind.
What advice would you give those who might be interested in helping out with the ODP?
I would suggest taking the time to review each work in its entirety, even though most measurements of interest may fall predictably within a single section of the paper. Read the figure captions, review the plate explanations, and note any additional information that could potentially be useful to evaluators in the email that accompanies your submission. The data presented in tables can sometimes be misleading if viewed out of context!