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 Without a good incentive to get them finished off (like a rival group) or them getting out of date (the stuff is interesting but not ground breaking and will not revolutionize the field when it comes out, but it’s not old either) these things can last for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.]