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Paleoworld-101

Publishing Research on Fossils in Private Collections?

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Troodon
22 hours ago, piranha said:

The proposed formula, 'science should somehow allow replicas', is backwards.  Instead, the way it works is the collector typically receives a replica.  For those unhappy with the criteria for fossils that are published in peer reviewed journals, there are many amateur paleo publications and online publishing venues, that only require photos.  Alternatively, many collectors have opted to self-publish their fossils.  Some of these self-published collections are quite spectacular, even if they are not subject to peer review or available for future study.  Unfortunately, you can't have it both ways; "Science, please publish my fossil, but only on the condition that I get to keep it." :o :P

 

 

The adacamic thinking is backward and stifiled and your comments are very misguided. The objective is to get specimens in the hands of paleontologists so they have an opportunity to add to their knowledge.  Its not for the purpose of a collector wanting his specimen published, that's ridiculous thinking.  If museums are interested in studying what is in collector hands than they need to be more open with their thinking.    The current situation DOES NOT work and is not conducive to have collectors contribute to science. Trying to help the museums not the other way around.

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Sagebrush Steve

Thanks @FossilDAWG, @Kane, and @Auspex.  This is definitely not my area of expertise and you are helping me learn.  I think what I have to get my mind around is that there is a difference between how we define “species” for living organisms and how we define it for fossils.  With living organisms you can use DNA testing, you can see whether they produce viable offspring, etc.  With fossils, that is not the case.  So you have to rely on physical characteristics and perhaps thing like what geological layer they were found in.  When you use these kinds of measures to define “species” you will probably come up with different dividing lines between them than if you had access to all the same kinds of information you have for living organisms.  But it’s probably the best we can do, and as long as everyone understands this and works together on it, then we are okay.

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bcfossilcollector

Fascinating thread!  Paleontology as a research science as well as the museums that collect, study and often exhibit fossil specimens are woefully underfunded.  This situation appears to be worsening as governments direct limited resources towards elements of their respective economies that have immediate requirements for funding. Museums have always relied on private patrons, via donations to operate successfully in the fields that they represent.  What seems apparent to me is that , like it or not, temporary loans of scientifically important fossil specimens to research institutions vs out right donations to the same, may become the norm as acquisitions monies becomes increasingly scarce.  Adapting a new mode of study based on a relationship between paleontologists and private collectors might ensure that, at the very least, paleontological research will continue albeit with a myriad of caveats.

 

 

 

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taj
3 hours ago, Auspex said:

And properly curated Holotypes. ;)

Yes .I think nobody disputes that claim , nor the need for these samples to be readily available for scientific studies . There are some very good points stated here against holotypes remaining in private hands , but I do think also that proponents of Museum curation should stake more modest claims . If private collectors will certainly not be able to "to ensure your specimens will be protected from environmental degradation and be available to researchers 100 years from now?  500 years from now?", as put forward by Don , neither Museums are  in this league  at the moment , as past history shows ( if the Holotypes from D'Orbigny , which is hailed in France as having practically invented Paleontology all by himself ( never mind other petty claims from German or English contemporaries) were not preserved ,then what can happen to other samples?). Museums and recognized institutions will do their best , which is much more than any regular collector can do , but this best will only extend so far .And certainly not a passport for eternity .

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Auspex

Failures in practice at museums happen, but are extremely rare. Specimens having received scientific investment should receive professional curation at an accredited institution.

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piranha
3 hours ago, Troodon said:

The adacamic thinking is backward and stifiled and your comments are very misguided.

The objective is to get specimens in the hands of paleontologists so they have an opportunity to add to their knowledge. 

Its not for the purpose of a collector wanting his specimen published, that's ridiculous thinking. 

If museums are interested in studying what is in collector hands than they need to be more open with their thinking.   

The current situation DOES NOT work and is not conducive to have collectors contribute to science.

Trying to help the museums not the other way around.

 

 

I'm not misguided at all.

With regard to scientific publishing, I'm following the tried and true methods that have worked for centuries.  You have gone off on a separate tangent, I simply made a direct response to the OP question and thread title: "Publishing Research on Fossils in Private Collections?"  Speaking more broadly about museum collections in general, I would still apply the same logic, regardless if they were being considered for publication or not.  Ironically, any large institutional fossil collection is likely to have some replica fossils.  I have seen some of these firsthand, unfortunately the intrinsic value of replica fossils is less than appealing to the actual researchers doing the work.  

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piranha
On 3/3/2018 at 7:00 AM, Troodon said:

...The overall objective of this topic needs to be focused on how to get private specimens in the hands of museums to be studied and published so that we can increase our knowledge base...

 

3 hours ago, Troodon said:

...Its not for the purpose of a collector wanting his specimen published, that's ridiculous thinking...

 

 

Btw, a spirited debate is fine, but it's increasingly difficult to engage with 2 of you! :P

 

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taj
3 hours ago, Auspex said:

Failures in practice at museums happen, but are extremely rare. Specimens having received scientific investment should receive professional curation at an accredited institution.

Well , the only practical measurement of this I have ever seen is the revision of d'Orbigny I mentioned before ,for a period of 150 years reaching backwards  and I was quite surprised (read "aghast")at the number of mentions of holotype being mentioned as lost . I would not be surprised that more recent fossil collections were also impacted in Europe during WWI ,WWII, and the end of the Cold War in the eastern institutions . We can harbor reasonable hopes that recent practices will ensure better preservation of the collections in the future  , but this is a hope only ( especially with the diminishing geo/paleo budgets and small number of curator posts , at least in Europe ).

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siteseer
On 3/1/2018 at 4:39 PM, Paleoworld-101 said:

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?

 

 

 

I have read technical articles in which it was noted that the owner of the fossil kept possession of a noted specimen and that person could not be located later so the specimen was lost to science.  I believe this was the case with a tooth of the shark, Palaeohypotodus bronni.(and other types studied by Louis Agassiz though he likely wasn't the reason they were misplaced)  It was because of instances like that that scientists decided that specimens needed to be depositied in suitable institutions instead of left in the charge of a private collector who tends to move from time to time and who usually dies before he makes his final wishes known especially with regard to the holotype he felt was safer with him.  Mr. Bronn's tooth likely ended up without its label in a pile of other fossils at his estate sale or in the trash or in the rubble of a fire or other mishap.

 

Yes, I have my own examples of inept or larcenous museum personnel.  A certain California institution known for its large fossil collection once threw out at least a drawer of bones because the labels got separated from them when they were moved from one building to another.  You'd think someone could have figured out which drawer was unaccounted for later.  A friend was a student at the same institution and he donated several specimens from a site known to the institution and they were properly labeled but when he was assigned to take a bag of trash to the dumpster, he noticed his specimens scattered in there as well.  He retrieved what he could and took them home.  I guess someone at the museum decided they already had enough fossils from that site.  In the early 90's at another institution a friend gave me a tour of some of the collections.  He informed me that the cabinets were getting locks because specimens were disappearing.  They couldn't blame that on those unwashed private collectors.  These were badged employees who each decided the museum could do without one less cave bear tooth or whatever it was.

 

While at one of these institutions I noticed an "on loan" notice of a specimen in a drawer that dated back to the late 1930's.  Hopefully, the transaction was properly recorded and it's currently retrievable even though the borrower and the loaner have most likely passed away by now.  In my own life I have worked for large and small companies.  Numerous products have been released and discontinued over the years but some supporting paperwork/website stuff never got done because people lose focus, change departments, quit, or get fired.  Sometimes, the memo never gets out or it's forgotten or ignored by those who do get it.

 

With the above in mind I still think all studied specimens need to be stored in museums where the vast majority of them have been safely available for study.  Researchers already travel a lot to museums to examine specimens related to their work.  If they also need to visit several more private residences just to track down where a specimen might be, that creates an extra hassle - another side trip.  When you read technical articles, the places where noted specimens are housed is noted in the first few pages.  It would be more than a little ridiculous if there was a note that said that interested researchers also need to visit Siteseer's house to examine Specimen A and Auspex' house to visit Specimen R.

 

I've collected my own fossils and prepared a number of fossils so I can tell you that some specimens are unsuitable for casting simply because they are too fragile.  Something like bird skull has bone that is literally paper-thin.  Many shells and exoskeletons are similarly delicate in structure and/or composition.  In almost all cases the matrix that encases a fossil is harder than the fossil so the risk of further damage is high - even more so with a fragile piece often found incomplete and/or dangerously-compromised in part (cracked and/or fragmented from compression or abrasion with the pieces scattered in the matrix).

 

 

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siteseer
On 3/1/2018 at 6:12 PM, Anomotodon said:

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.

 

Anomotodon,

 

Ann Forsten, a mammal researcher specializing in extinct horses, used to publish articles with no figures.  I guess she thought other paleontologists would be fine with just detailed description and accurate measurements. It turns out that even the most statistics-loving scientists like to look at pictures too. 

 

Jess

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