Author Archive

The last of what we need

February 3, 2012 1 comment

Well, this is awkward. Once again we’ve let things lie fallow for far, far too long. We all (= Andy, Mike, and I) feel rotten about it, but more importantly, we now have a finite list of stuff that we need to finish the data haul, and then we can finally do the analyses, write the paper, and generally make good on everything we set out to do.

So rather than waste your time with more blather, here’s the tail end of the wish list:

References That Have Data That Need to be Entered a First Time [note – some may not have measurements, but should at least be checked; I don’t have easy access to all papers]

Bell, PR, Evans, DC (2010) Revision of the status of Saurolophus (Hadrosauridae) from California, USA. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 47, 1417-1426.

Butler RJ, Liyong J, Jun C, Godefroit P (2011) The postcranial osteology and phylogenetic position of the small ornithischian dinosaur Changchunsaurus parvus from the Quantou Formation (Cretaceous: Aptian–Cenomanian) of Jilin Province, north-eastern China. Palaeontology 54:667-683.

McDonald, A. T., Barrett, P. M. and Chapman, S. D., 2010. A new basal iguanodont (Dinosauria: Ornithischia) from the Wealden (Lower Cretaceous) of England. Zootaxa, 2569, 1-43.

Prieto-Marquez A. Cranial and appendicular ontogeny of Bactrosaurus johnsoni, a hadrosauroid dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous of northern China. Palaeontology (in press). DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4983.2011.01053.x

References For Data In Need of Cross-Checking

Cuthbertson, R. S. and Holmes, R. B., 2010. The first complete description of the holotype of Brachylophosaurus canadensis Sternberg, 1953 (Dinosauria: Hadrosauridae) with comments on intraspecific variation. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 159, 373-397.

Ezcurra, M. D., 2010. A new early dinosaur (Saurischia: Sauropodomorpha) from the Late Triassic of Argentina: a reassessment of dinosaur origin and phylogeny. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, 8, 371-425.

Godefroit P, Pereda Suberbiola X, Li H, Dong Z-M (1999) A new species of the ankylosaurid dinosaur Pinacosaurus from the Late Cretaceous of Inner Mongolia (P.R. China). Bulletin de l’Institut Royal des Sciences Naturelles de Belgique 69-Supp. B: 17-36.

Huene Fv (1926) Vollständige Osteologie eines Plateosauriden aus dem Schwäbischen Keuper. Geologische und Palaeontologische Abhandlungen (N. F.) 15 (2): 139-179

Longrich, NR (2011) Titanoceratops ouranos, a giant horned dinosaur from the late Campanian of New Mexico. Cretaceous Research 32: 264-276.

Martinez, R. N., Sereno, P. C., Alcober, O. A., Colombi, C. E., Renne, P. R., Montanez, I. P. and Currie, B. S., 2011. A basal dinosaur from the dawn of the dinosaur era in southwestern Pangaea. Science, 331, 206-210.

McDonald AT, Kirkland JI, DeBlieux DD, Madsen SK, Cavin J, et al. (2010) New basal iguanodonts from the Cedar Mountain Formation of Utah and the evolution of thumb-spiked dinosaurs. PLoS ONE 5(11): e14075. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0014075

Pereda-Suberbiola J, Ruíz-Omeñaca JI, Ullastre J, Masriera A (2003) Primera cita de un dinosaurio hadrosaurio en el Cretácico Superior del Prepirineo oriental (Peguera, provincia de Barcelona). Geogaceta 34: 195-198

Riabinin ANN (1945) [Dinosaurian remains from the Upper Cretaceous of the Crimea] (in Russian). Vsesoy. Nauch.-Issledov. Geol. Inst. Matl. Paleontol. Strat. 4: 4–10.

Ryabinin AN (1939) The Upper Cretaceous vertebrate fauna of South Kazakhstan, Reptilia; Part 1, the Ornithischia. Transactions of the Central Geological and Prospecting Institute 118: 1-38.

Wang X, Pan R, Butler RJ, Barrett PM. 2011 (for 2010). The postcranial skeleton of the iguanodontian ornithopod Jinzhousaurus yangi from the Lower Cretaceous Yixian Formation of western Liaoning, China. Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 101: 135-159.

Zhao X, Li D, Han G, Zhao H, Liu F, Li L, Fang X (2007) Zhuchengosaurus maximus from Shandong Province. Acta Geoscientica Sinica 28: 111-122.

Summertime, open ignorance, and finishing the project

May 25, 2011 7 comments

Hi, all. Thanks for your patience this spring. Sorry we’ve let things lie fallow for so long. Many thanks to everyone for keeping things ticking over while we were AWOL.

Like Andy said in the last post, it’s time to wrestle this thing to the ground and stick a knife through its heart (I may be paraphrasing a bit). Andy, Mike, and I have cleared some protected time in our summer schedules to finish the analyses and write the paper. The next two weeks may be a bit quiet on our end as we all work to get other things tied up and off our desks–and as Andy moves his residence!–but we should be ready to hit it hard by the second week of June.

There is a lot of work to be done, and there are lots of ways to contribute to the paper for everyone who wants to be involved, right now and continuing through the summer. I’ll give some suggestions in a minute. But first, an admission.

We don’t really know what we’re doing here. That’s obvious with the social side of the project, because nothing like this has been attempted before, at least not on this scale or with this degree of openness. But it’s also true on the scientific side. None of us (Andy, Mike, or I) has ever written a paper on this topic. There are some specific analyses that we need for the paper that we’ve never run before. So we are very much learning as we go–this is the open ignorance I alluded to in the title. This isn’t by accident. We could have chosen to do something simpler and less ambitious–perhaps repeat a project that we’d already done before with only the names of the critters changed. But we wanted to learn from the project–from you, the contributors, and alongside you–and to grow as scientists from having participated in it. And we want the final product to be a truly collaborative effort, and not to simply walk everyone through a series of moves that we already know by heart.

And it is working. We have been amazed at the level of enthusiasm and commitment that you have brought to the project, and our only regret is that we have not reciprocated with the sustained level of effort that you, and the project, deserve. So we’re committing ourselves to getting this done, starting now.

How can you contribute? Here are some suggestions:

  • Update the database. New taxa continue to be described, new descriptions of established taxa continue to be published, and older publications continue to become available. So if you have been wanting to do some (more) good old-fashioned ODP gruntwork, there’s still a little time.
  • Suggest relevant references, or read up on the ones that are already suggested. It might be a good idea to gather those references together so they can be made available to anyone who is working on the project. We’ll probably do a post specifically on this in the near future, but there’s no reason not to be pulling things together in the meantime.
  • Look at the outline of the paper, suggest improvements, and–if you are so inclined–start writing those bits that can be written right now. For now, feel free to post chunks in comments or send them to us. Jay Fitzsimmons’s paragraph on citizen science and the ODP is a good model to follow. We’ll definitely be posting more on the actual writing of the paper soon, but, as with boning up on the relevant references, there’s no reason to hold off if this is something you’re interested in working on.
  • Analyze data. Obviously there are limits to what we can do until we really finalize the database once and for all, but this is a good time for exploring the data and for test-driving analyses to be done on the finalized database. We have enough data that overall trends are not likely to change much, so anything that looks interesting now will probably still be interesting in the final version.
  • Work on a time-calibrated phylogeny for the dataset. This is a big one, again probably deserving of a post of its own. We’ll also need to update the “master tree” to include the most current phylogenetic trees for the included taxa. If you’re into trees, timelines, or both, the mothership is calling you home.
  • Figure out how to do disparity analyses. This is one of those things that we project organizers have never done before. We’re reading up on it right now, but if you know anything about it, let us know. Even when we get up to speed, we’ll still need your input. Like Project Mayhem, you can determine your own level of involvement.
  • Other stuff? The project is probably at its maximum breadth in terms of types of work to be done. Up until now we’ve focused mainly on building the database and outlining where we want to go, and in a few weeks we’ll have the database finalized and our efforts will narrow as we focus on running the analyses and writing the paper. So whether you’re brand new and want to get involved for the first time, or an old hand who wants to do something different, there is something around here that needs doing. Have a look at the tasks list, go back through the last few posts, and see what appeals to you. If in doubt, give us a shout.

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more posts very soon. But don’t just stay tuned–keep posting ideas, data, references, bits of text, and whatever else you want to contribute. We’ll do likewise.

Categories: Housekeeping, To-Do List

ODP on hiatus

June 4, 2010 8 comments

Hi all,

You may be justifiably wondering where the heck your feckless leaders are. The sad answer is that we’re temporarily swamped. Andy and I have been caught  up in the end-0f-school-year activities at our respective institutions, and Andy leaves today for a round-the-world research trip that will take him to China, Madagascar, Kenya, and England. Mike is consumed with day-job responsibilities, and I am gearing up for summer teaching.

This is part of the ebb and flow of academic and professional life, and we knew it was coming, which is why we originally planned to try to get a manuscript off before the storm hit. Obviously that didn’t happen, and it’s not going to happen in the next couple of months, so we (Andy, Mike, and me) are going on hiatus for a bit. We’ll get moving again toward the end of summer.

So, thanks again, from all of us, to everyone who has contributed. It’s been a great thrill for us to see that the ODP is actually working, and we’re sorry to have to bow out for a bit. But fear not, we will be back, and the project will go on to completion. In the meantime, the data are available for further tinkering, and we’ll leave the comment fields open in case you have any brainstorms.

Have a great summer, and we’ll see you on the other side.

Categories: Housekeeping

Engineering the shiny digital future

October 1, 2009 3 comments

This is slightly off-topic, but only slightly. Today ODP co-founder Mike Taylor had a paper published in the Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature on the inevitability of electronic publication. You can read the paper here and some of Mike’s thoughts on it here.

Why is this relevant at ODP? In short, we could not have launched this project 10 years ago. Not enough of the relevant literature was available online at all, and very little of it was available for free. But as Mike writes, the world has changed. Almost all journals either have an online presence or at least give PDFs to authors who then make them available, so a large proportion (but not all) of new scientific literature is available online, often immediately, often for free (but not often enough). Furthermore, there has been a big push to get a lot of the older literature scanned and uploaded as well–the American Museum of Natural History is a standout example here, and especially relevant for us since so many dinosaur descriptions have been and continue to be published in AMNH journals.

These are all good things. But they’re not finished–Mike’s paper is just the latest salvo in what has been and will be a very long struggle. And they’re not enough.

We launched ODP because we believe that the division between scientists and non-scientists is both artificial and harmful. Nowadays projects like this go under the heading of citizen science, or the involvement of laypeople in scientific research. Before the 20th century there was no need for the term ‘citizen science’ because publicly supported science didn’t exist. All science was done by ordinary folks, some of whom were were independently wealthy but many of whom worked regular jobs and practiced science in their spare time. The rise of publicly supported science as a profession in the 20th century led to amazing advances, but we lost something along the way, which is the idea that anyone can contribute to human knowledge.

The longest-running citizen science project is the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count, which has been running since 1900. Many other birdwatching projects are coordinated by the Cornell Ornithology Lab. Looking farther out, the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) is a network of citizen scientists who have been collecting data on variable stars since 1911. More recently, astronomy and space science have benefited tremendously from the contributions of citizen scientists to projects like SETI@home, Stardust@home, and Galaxy Zoo. More extensive lists of citizen science projects are available at this Wikipedia page. I’m a citizen scientist myself, and participate in Galaxy Zoo and the various astronomical surveys in my spare time. Even if you decide that the ODP is not for you, I encourage you to find a citizen science project that captures your interest. It’s a chance to do real, useful work in a field in which you may have an interest but no opportunities, until now.

What sort of effects will we see from the rise of ‘citizen scientists’–or, in the longer term, the erosion of the wall between scientists and the public? Hopefully societies (and, crucially, electorates) that are generally better informed, more curious, more alert, and more engaged. And scientists who think of the public not as some strange crowd that have to be “reached” by various arcane ways, but as a vast source of information, advice, and assistance. And Science-with-a-capital-S that belongs to everyone, not just because the results are broadly communicated but also because they were broadly generated.

That’s Open Science. That’s the world we want to live in. And that’s the future that we need your help to build.

Categories: Shiny Digital Future

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