Is there a finish line? (and how to get there)

Yes. . .I hope there is a finish line. As with many things started with the best of intentions, the ODP (and its heads – particularly me) has gotten waylaid. That said, it would be a shame to let the numerous contributions and hours of volunteer effort go to waste. So, Matt and Mike and I have been having some serious conversations about finishing this once and for all! So, here’s the deal.

  • I want to finish this. You want to finish this. It just needs to be finished.
  • Analysis and write-up are the main things that need to be done. It requires a bit of concentrated effort (primarily on my part).
  • The way I see it, the most productive product of the analysis would be to examine limb disparity in ornithischian dinosaurs through time. This would entail binning the dinos and running the analysis. Riffing off of recent work by numerous authors, this would involve running a PCO (principal coordinates analysis) on the measurements for each bin. This can then be converted to a metric that shows overall morphological disparity. The primary question this asks is, “How did ornithischians diversify in their limb bone proportions through time?” Was it something that happened right away? Or something that happened later? A related question concerns how to accommodate phylogeny. As with many recent papers, the main thing we’re interested in here are ghost lineages. Given the incomplete nature of the fossil record, ancestral state reconstruction of some sort is probably needed. The problem, however, is that these methods are often. . .vague. . .at best. Perhaps maximum likelihood reconstruction in the relevant R packages? (see this link for an example ) Or perhaps skip trying to reconstruct stuff altogether and take the results with appropriate caution?
  • I envision three analyses: all limbs together (for all animals that are appropriately complete), forelimbs, and hind limbs. This would help account for animals that preserve only forelimbs, or only hind limbs.

Tasks to do:


  • Realistically, upcoming major events in the real world mean that I (Andy) have to get this thing off my plate by December 1 at latest. This is also best for Matt and Mike, too (and everyone, right?). This means a finished, submitted manuscript.
  • If the December 1 thing doesn’t happen, realistically we need a way to “cut the data loose.” Although we’ve had a general statement on the blog that we would rather others hold off on using our data until the paper is published, it isn’t fair to sit on the data for years at a time. So, this means that we would step aside from right of first refusal for publication with the data. This means that others are welcome to use the data without explicit permission (although the ODP should still be cited as the data source). The data would be archived at figshare, which provides a stable link, long-term archiving, and DOI for future linking.
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14 Responses to Is there a finish line? (and how to get there)

  1. Best of luck getting the analyses done & paper written!

    Also, kudos for stating you’re wary of sitting on the data. Many others would stay ominously silent on this. I hope of course you get the paper done, but it is very noble of you to state you’ll release the data if the paper doesn’t come together.

  2. Andy Farke says:

    What, 4-5 months of silence isn’t ominous enough?😉

  3. Thank you for getting the project going again. I’d suggest that the “worst case scenario” be a data paper rather than just opening the doors to the data without a publication. There are some journals that publish data papers (e.g., Ecological Archives: that are peer-reviewed and allow open access of the data. This would provide data to any researchers, but still provide a peer-reviewed publication for those of us who signed up with that as one of our incentives. I love dinosaurs (thanks in part to this project), and I love citizen science, but I’m also trying to get a job and every publication matters (even one in which I’d be the 30th or so author!).

    Of course my preference would be a proper paper with limb analyses, and I’d support going for that. I’m glad that’s your priority too.

  4. Mike Taylor says:


    If we come to the point where we have to give up on authoring the paper that we intended (and we all hope it won’t come to that!) then one perfectly cromulent outcome would be for one of the existing ODP participants to step forward and adopt the lead-author mantle, inviting everyone else to stay on board. So that’s one option. But let’s all trust Andy to get it done, for now.

  5. David Dreisigmeyer says:

    Could the ODP data shed light on this:

  6. Nick Gardner says:

    Yes, I don’t see why the project couldn’t compare between the morphometric data and the qualitative data in my opinion.. It may well be informative to see how these data complement or contrast with each other.

  7. Fabre Alexandre says:

    Good luck for the finish line. Say us, if we can be of any help.

  8. David Dreisigmeyer says:

    Oh no…. it’s Dec 1!

  9. Mike Taylor says:

    Yes. And Andy’s baby’s been born.

    I think it’s time for some tough decisions.

  10. David Dreisigmeyer says:

    Awesome! Congratulations Andy.

  11. Congratulations Andy!

  12. William Miller says:

    So what is the next step? A data paper?

  13. Andy Farke says:

    Hi William,

    I actually got a fair bit of analysis done a few months ago (while my son was just a few weeks old), but have gotten swamped with parenthood and a few pressing projects at work. Thank you for the poke, which is a good incentive to get the stuff off my hard drive and onto the blog (in the next few days, me hopes).

  14. William Miller says:

    Also, is there anything we (= other ODP participants)) can do/help with?

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