Monday, September 14, 2009

The Paleo Paper Challenge

Dave Hone of Archosaur Musings and I were recently chatting online and were lamenting the inevitable problem of ‘the unfinished paper’. Most researchers have a project or two (or anything up to 20) that were started and then kind of stalled for various reasons – uncooperative co-authors, being unable to find the elusive essential paper, other projects taking priority, or just general malaise. It’s left as a few pages of notes, or unreferenced, without figures or a key analysis complete or whatever. It’s good science and publishable, it’s just not done. Without a good incentive to get them finished off (like a rival group) or them getting out of date (the stuff is interesting but not ground breaking and will not revolutionize the field when it comes out, but it’s not old either) these things can last for ever. Sometimes, all the manuscript needs is one day of solid work to kick the thing out the door!

Both of us have these kinds of papers knocking around and we are far from the only ones. As such with SVP around the corner we decided to issue the Paleo Paper Challenge (or Palaeo Paper Challenge, if you're so inclined). If you have a palaeo paper that really needs to be finished off then we challenge you to sign up here and get it done this year. If so, simply leave a note in the comment thread and we’ll total them all up in a few days and create a register of those taking part (so you can’t back out!). There is no need to let everyone know exactly what it is you are working on (if people want to keep things private, that’s fine) but of course juicy details will be welcome. Dave and I will also both be canvassing at SVP, and if you want to encourage others to join, do please mention this on your own blogs etc.

This should serve as both self-motivation to get the project done and a nice little race to see who can finish first and get their paper(s) submitted or in print. The real challenge of course is simply to get it done, so we are setting January 1, 2010, as your ‘official’ deadline – if you are joining the challenge you’ll have about three months to get it done. There are hundreds if not thousands of these papers languishing on hard drives so let’s try and get a few of them out there!

[NOTE: This post was largely written by Dave. . .I've modified it slightly for posting here. Perhaps this laziness is why I have so many half-finished papers sitting on my hard drive right now.]

26 comments:

archosaurmusings said...

Well, obviously I'm in, but before we even presented the PPC, my intended paper has hit a major snag and possibly been put back significantly, so I may have to switch before we have even started! Oopsie.

Casey said...

Lol where to start. I'm still sitting on a version of the articular cartilage paper/MS. I know particular ppl want to see it out, i still hope. poor neglected thing. And there's the dino skull roof/muscle paper that is off on a co-author's desk (since early summer). They've been busy, its cool.. its been kicked around since like winter 2006?. I know of one person that moderates this page that has a vested interested in that one ;)

Sounds like a nice early version of a new years resolution :) I'll try the cartilage paper. And I don't have SVP to get in the way and cause distractions and lead to new ideas/projects.

perhaps the fun post will be the various barriers etc that end up keeping ppl from getting one of them done.

ReBecca Foster said...

Ok, sign me up. I will give it a try. Thanks for the motivation!

Dr. Vector said...

Count me in. Come the end of November, two and a half years will have passed since I filed my diss, and I still haven't gotten the fourth chapter submitted. Which is just ridamndiculous. Some of the measurements are wrong and I'll need to rerun the analyses (hello, Futalognkosaurus), but it's still low-hanging fruit.

I'm still sitting on a version of the articular cartilage paper/MS. I know particular ppl want to see it out, i still hope.

Your hope is not in vain--the SV-POW!sketeers, among others, have been pining for this paper for some time. Bummer you're not going to be at SVP, I was looking forward to our annual beer-n-bitching session. It's kind of an institution.

Maybe we could take turns telling each other which projects each of us knows the others are sitting on that we want to see published?

Andy said...

Awesome! Yeah, I'd rather see the skull roof paper out, but that's just my selfish motivations talking. Oh well.

So I'm committing myself to two papers:
1) Finish a paper on this myledaphid site I've sat on since last year (and left my co-authors hanging).
2) Finish revisions on my final dissertation chapter and resubmit that thing.

Andy said...

So far then we've got:
1) Dave on a to-be-decided paper
2) Casey on articular cartilage
3) ReBecca on a to-be-decided paper
4) Matt on his 4th dissertation chapter
5) Me on Myledaphus and dissertations.

Come on, blog lurkers! It's not too late to throw in your two cents!

Tor Bertin said...

So, I've got a paper in the works, but I can't submit it for publication until one of the specimens it deals with has a full description (it had a brief mention in Science, but its in depth description is now part of one of the discoverers' dissertation).

I can at least attempt to send you a completed manuscript by the deadline if you want to see it, but I can't do anything about publishing (or even submitting for publishing) until the mentioned measurements involved are already in print.

Mike Taylor said...

This is an excellent initiative. I have already made this commitment in private to a friend, but I may as well pile on the pressure now by going public: my plan is to FINALLY get the Archbishop description done (that's the Tenadguru brachiosaur at the Natural History museum, for those of you who for whatever reason don't read SV-POW!)

Up till now I've been holding back because other things, though less important, have been more urgent. But now that the Brachiosaurus paper is out, there is really no excuse. All that will slow this down is that there is such a huge amount of work to be done -- but it's not like I am waiting on a slow ILL or a lazy collaborator or anything.

Heinrich said...

Oh yeah, same same here as well. I can think of... hm.... 5? 6? maybe even 7 things that could long since have been done, need to be done, and some of them soon. Papers half-written, dissertation chapters un-submitted because of small errors found later, papers un-written because we lack a few hundred $$$ for a trip, an experiment, a test.....

and yes, Casey, we will not go away, we wantss preciousss cartilage paperssss, we needs ssemm! I needs ssemmm!!!

so I am already trying to get my 5-year-old half baked ideas onto paper (erhm, disc, that is) and out to an editor - do I need the extra pressure and abuse by you gals and guys? Do I really need it?


I guess so....

here goes:
- Plateosaurus CAE (is waiting for the two other diss chapters to come out of review)
- sauropods rearing
- alligator muscle cross sections
where is Dewey when you need him? oh, right, cutting up animals, I forgot ;)
- non-Plateosaurus at MFN description
- sauropodomorph rapid locomotion (this one is a whopper!)

Now, you'll all agree that this can't all be finished before Jan 1. Especially because I will spend two months in 'parent time' (government pays me to look after my kids - heaven!). So just give me a thorough (verbal) kicking on all of them and I'll try to get as many done as possible.

Casey said...

Congrats on the kid Heinrich. I'm sure many will attest that perhaps the #1 productivity damper is an F1..or 2. speaking from experience. And i spoke too soon. Soon After this post, my histologist emailed me saying a giant box of lizard head serial sections is on its way to me. Xmas comes early...But I swear, articular cartilage here I come. I have 2 days wait for FedEx ;)

Heinrich said...

ah, Casey, that's the best kind of delay: waiting for FedEx!

The kids is already a year old, and yes, F1 is a real speed-bump. but also a massive motivator, if you're not on a tenure track position ;)

Glad to hear that the cartilage is on the way; are you coming to SVP? If so I'll bring something you'll love.

Matthew said...

I like it! Like NaNoWriMo for paleontologists...

ReBecca Foster said...

You can count John in also Andy. He is working on some things, but he can't decide which one to pick ;)

archosaurmusings said...

This is going pretty well. Let's keep 'em coming!

Adam Yates said...

OK, I'll join. I have a virtually complete paper on early sauropodomorph pnneumaticity, that simply needs an introductory figure and a bit of reformatting. Oh and there is the rauisuchians of the Elliot Formation paper that has been languishing on my hard drive for almost two years as well. And...I'd better stop there. Before the end of the year I promise.

Darren Naish said...

Mike's reference to a private pact above refers to my long-overdue _Eotyrannus_ monograph (thesis filed in 2006). Unfortunately, pressure from other stuff - I have three books on the go, a book chapter and too many editorial commitments - means that paper writing (which is done in 'spare time') is impossible for months at a time. I will have to stop blogging. Yeah, right.

Andy said...

Looks like we're getting some good momentum - and not signing on is understandable for those who have too many other irons in the fire at the moment. It's not too late to bug a friend to join, though!

Anthony Maltese said...

Sign me up too, a little motivation to "Do some science stuff" and get rid of backlog is a great idea.

tanystropheus said...

Count me in! Dr. Hungerbuehler and I have been putting off a description of a new Redondasaurus skull for nearly a year now!

Bill Parker said...

Can you say....Revueltosaurus as in the full description. I'm trying to break the apparent trend in VP on publishing the preliminary work (in 2005 in this case) and not following up with the full description. It did not help that we got another nearly complete specimen in 2006!

I find that as a non-artistic person my big hang-up is figures. I believe that papers should be full of them but unfortunately I'm not good a producing them. My drawing and photography skills are abysmal.

I won't even bother to list the other 12 or so manuscripts (oh wait thirteen after a discussion earlier today) that I have promised or are involved in, plus revisions to an already submitted paper. In fact what am I doing even typing this right now?

Mike Taylor said...

I think I speak for all right-thinking people when I say:

-- Heinrich: rearing sauropods, please!
-- Adam: pneumatic prosauropods, please!

and I guess ...

-- Darren: stinkin' basal tyrannosauroids, please!

Andy said...

Awesome, keep the entries coming!

Eric Snively said...

Good idea/motivation. Three papers:
Chicken electromyography and implications for big theropod neck muscles.

Atlas of gekkotan lizards of the Paris Basin.

Artiodactyl vs. Stegoceras head-strike mechanics.

LOTS more for next year.

Pak said...

I'm in! I've just finished my master thesis and I pretend to publish it! That's a good moment to decide to publish it before I leave it abandoned!

Andrea Cau said...

I'm in! Among others, I have a metriorhinchid from Northern Italy worth of being described: I will give a try, at least to complete the ms!

Mike Habib said...

After some consideration, I think I'll go ahead and get cracking on the final bits of the pterosaur flight range manuscript I've been dropping hints about. Tentative title (assuming I have the guts to make the pun in print) is: "Airspeed velocity of an unladen pterosaur: estimating maximum flight range in pterodactyloids"