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Paleoworld-101

Publishing Research on Fossils in Private Collections?

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Paleoworld-101

Hi all, 

 

Someone has told me that researchers generally can't publish papers on fossils that are retained in private collections, but i am unconvinced. Is this really the case? I'm drawing a blank on thinking of notable examples of fossils that have been published which are held in a private collection, but i'm sure such cases exist. Perhaps anyone on this forum has a personal example of a situation where a fossil they found was published in the literature and that they still have ownership of it? 

 

What if someone finds a fossil and a cast is made for study but the original is kept by the finder. Is this really a problem for research procedures?

 

 

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oldtimer

A very interesting question and topic. :popcorn:

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ynot

The scientific world likes to have ready access to a fossil so any write up on it can be checked against the original fossil.

If it is a private collection that access is/can be denied.

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Paleoworld-101
2 minutes ago, ynot said:

The scientific world likes to have ready access to a fossil so any write up on it can be checked against the original fossil.

If it is a private collection that access is/can be denied.

But what if the finder readily allows access so that side of things isn't an issue? Also wouldn't a high quality physical cast that is kept by the research institution be suitable anyway? I was told that the actual publication process would be knocked back if the specimen is held in a private collection, which is what i'm mainly asking about here. 

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Uncle Siphuncle

To keep life simple, I keep everything I like that isn't a new species.  If it is a new species, I try to find 2 or more, and keep at least one.  And when I do make a significant donation, I tend to wait until some hungry academic is standing there with a catcher's mitt and ready to pounce on the research.  I'm patient enough to wait until they are ready, even if that takes years, and it usually does.  I prefer not to donate, only to have things languish, and the specimen lost or forgotten, when it could have been admired daily under my personal stewardship.

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Paleoworld-101
20 minutes ago, Tidgy's Dad said:

 

So it's only 'type' specimens that are subject to guidelines by the ICZN? What if the specimen being published is not a new species or a type specimen, but simply another example of an established taxon? Can it be kept in a private collection and be publishable?

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Anomotodon

That's right, all of the journals I looked at require all of the figured material to be deposited in a recognized institution. For instance, Cretaceous Research, Acta Paleontologica Polonica, Systematic Paleontology, ... Theoretically, you can make your papers without figures, though it could look weird.

I understand that for many people starting with amateur collecting it will be hard to lose the emotional connection with their specimens, I had gone through the same thing half a year ago, but it is actually important for science for described specimens to be housed in a stable and trusted institution rather than in a private collection accessibility of which highly depends on one person - the collector.

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piranha
2 hours ago, Paleoworld-101 said:

Someone has told me that researchers generally can't publish papers on fossils that are retained in private collections, but i am unconvinced. Is this really the case?...

 

 

There are some rare exceptions in the past, but typically that is not an acceptable practice.  Type specimens are always expected to be curated in an accredited institution, so they remain accessible and reproducible for future research.  Nowadays, you would not be able to publish privately held fossils in any significant paleontology journal.  Private collections have all the obvious pitfalls that cannot guarantee any meaningful perpetuity.  This is one of the golden rules of science, evidently it has been working for centuries.  If it aint broke, don't fix it!

 

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Paleoworld-101
36 minutes ago, piranha said:

 

 

There are some rare exceptions in the past, but typically that is not an acceptable practice.  Type specimens are always expected to be curated in an accredited institution, so they remain accessible and reproducible for future research.  Nowadays, you would not be able to publish privately held fossils in any significant paleontology journal.  Private collections have all the obvious pitfalls that cannot guarantee any meaningful perpetuity.  This is one of the golden rules of science, evidently it has been working for centuries.  If it aint broke, don't fix it!

 

You say that type specimens are the ones required to be in an accredited institution, but Anomotodon said any and all specimens as long as they are figured, there's quite a difference there. Did you also mean the latter? It seems a bit excessive to me... that means there are so many great specimens in private hands that can't ever be researched just because they aren't sitting in a museum or wherever. If the collector makes access easy and abides to never sell it etc, those pitfalls shouldn't be a problem. 

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JohnJ
14 minutes ago, Paleoworld-101 said:

.... If the collector makes access easy and abides to never sell it etc, those pitfalls shouldn't be a problem. 

Individual collectors are almost certainly unable to guarantee the access, protection, and storage required to accommodate future research.  If you think about it, any one of those requirements could present multiple problem scenarios that an accredited institution can avoid.  The potential for specimen destruction is significantly diminished at a proper repository.

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doushantuo

Yep.read The Geological Curator or similar publications(if they exist) to get an (inkling of) an  idea.Even VERY professional institutions are grappling with problems with data retrieval,specimen deterioration,etc.

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Paleoworld-101

In an ideal world, i want a mutual merging of resources between private collections and other accredited institutions collections, because the pool of specimens available from doing so is far greater than just what is in the institutions alone. No wonder there is such a divide between collectors and academics. There should be a better solution by now :wacko:

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Anomotodon

Here are examples from Acta Paleontologica Polonica and Cretaceous Research. Same situation is with very many (if not all) paleontological journals.

image.thumb.png.51c5a768e4a1806d129ae18c887ac774.png

image.thumb.png.e20471f0a1b5eaf92d5b2d8523d2e3fd.png

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piranha
49 minutes ago, Paleoworld-101 said:

You say that type specimens are the ones required to be in an accredited institution, but Anomotodon said any and all specimens as long as they are figured, there's quite a difference there. Did you also mean the latter? It seems a bit excessive to me... 

 

 

Yes, I also meant the latter:

1 hour ago, piranha said:

...Nowadays, you would not be able to publish privately held fossils in any significant paleontology journal.

 

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MarleysGh0st
10 hours ago, Paleoworld-101 said:

If the collector makes access easy and abides to never sell it etc, those pitfalls shouldn't be a problem. 

Can you make that promise binding on your children, grandchildren and so on through the generations?

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Taogan

Something has always puzzled me, in some countries the "public" collections are treated almost the same as "private" collections. Museums can go bankrupt and their specimens sold off. What would happen to a type specimen held by a museum under those circumstances? 

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Troodon

I fully understand the need to have a repository for a published specimen.   What I have difficulty with is why replicas are not accepted in this repository especially when we are not talking about a type specimen.   A couple of years ago I loaned a major museum a dinosaur specimen for study and allowed them to replicate it for their use.   A couple of those replicas was returned with the original specimen and I could not tell the difference between the two other than weight.  Modern molding techniques are fantastic in duplicating specimens and should be considered for publication especially when we are not dealing with type specimens

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Bullsnake
2 hours ago, Troodon said:

I fully understand the need to have a repository for a published specimen.   What I have difficulty with is why replicas are not accepted in this repository especially when we are not talking about a type specimen.   A couple of years ago I loaned a major museum a dinosaur specimen for study and allowed them to replicate it for their use.   A couple of those replicas was returned with the original specimen and I could not tell the difference between the two other than weight.  Modern molding techniques are fantastic in duplicating specimens and should be considered for publication especially when we are not dealing with type specimens

I was wondering if it could possibly be to study the mineralization for differences in taphonomy.

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Troodon
1 hour ago, Bullsnake said:

I was wondering if it could possibly be to study the mineralization for differences in taphonomy.

I'm sure there are limitations but that depends on what the purpose of the paper since they all have a different  focus.  If their unintended objective is to keep private specimen out of the hands of museums they are accomplishing that goal.

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piranha
3 hours ago, Troodon said:

...Modern molding techniques are fantastic in duplicating specimens and should be considered for publication especially when we are not dealing with type specimens

 

 

The inherent problem with replica fossils, no matter how accurate, they cannot possibly preserve all the observable characteristics of the actual fossil or its matrix.  Unfortunately, there is no good substitute for the original fossil.  Consider this too, as technology advances, improved testing methodologies also emerge.  Decades later, many institutionally held replica fossils would simply become lost to science.  This scenario is unsustainable and should be an unacceptable outcome to any serious paleontologists.  The traditional system as it stands, has worked brilliantly for centuries, and will continue to work just as it always has, regardless of any differences between academics and amateurs.  From the success of TFF and many other online venues of amateur paleontologists, it would appear that we all coexist quite well. 

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Troodon
18 minutes ago, piranha said:

 

 

The inherent problem with replica fossils, no matter how accurate, they cannot possibly preserve all the observable characteristics of the actual fossil or its matrix.  Unfortunately, there is no good substitute for the original fossil.  Consider this too, as technology advances, improved testing methodologies also emerge.  Decades later, many institutionally held replica fossils would simply become lost to science.  This scenario is unsustainable and should be an unacceptable outcome to any serious paleontologists.  The traditional system as it stands, has worked brilliantly for centuries, and will continue to work just as it always has, regardless of any differences between academics and amateurs.  From the success of TFF and many other online venues of amateur paleontologists, it would appear that we all coexist quite well. 

All true but we are sticking our heads in the sand and making it all black and white and assuming that it will not work.  Science needs to be more open to alternative that will provide them even more knowledge that is currently lost to them.  Old ways may not always be the only approach.

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JohnJ

I don't see it as old ways vs new.  New advances in science always seek to preserve the original data it is built on and verified by.

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JohnBrewer
4 hours ago, Troodon said:

What I have difficulty with is why replicas are not accepted

Or even high quality 3D scans, CAT scans...

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Tidgy's Dad

I would also point out that museums have been known to 'lose' specimens, leave them gathering dust for decades or have no understanding of what they have. Amateur palaeontologists visiting museums have 'discovered' new species. 

Here, if I go to the museum with a specimen they will just shrug. Not one specimen in the university has the right label that i have seen. 

But i'm not saying one shouldn't donate worthy items to museums. Just make sure they're the right museums. 

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