Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Open Source Triceratops Paper

Wow! The past few days have been a real whirlwind. As mentioned in my last post, our long-awaited paper (well, long-awaited by my co-authors and me) on Triceratops horn use and paleopathology was unleashed by PLoS ONE on Tuesday evening. We've received some wonderful feedback through this blog and email, and are very ready to move on to the next research project.

Because this blog focuses partly on open access and open source software, I wanted to write briefly about how these issues factored into our research. This is one of the most "open" projects I've attempted to date, from start to finish. Here are the details:
  • The data collection and statistical analysis were completed in Calc, with the calculations based on a spreadsheet file I found (and tested against known examples) from somewhere on the internet (but can't remember where, now!). R will also do the appropriate calculations, but I stuck with the spreadsheet because my data files were so small and straight-forward.
  • The manuscript was written in Writer, but my co-authors and I batted it back and forth in Word format (because Darren and Ewan are using the latter program). We had no problems with this strategy, and the format conversions were a snap for the relatively simple documents we were using.
  • The bibliography was compiled and formatted using Zotero. Zotero even has a readily available style file for PLoS, so this made my life very easy.
  • The figures were edited for contrast and brightness in GIMP (no other manipulation was performed on the images) and assembled in Inkscape.
  • The journal, PLoS ONE, was selected because of its high profile, high impact, and open access. Thanks to the open access policy, our article is readable by anyone who wishes to see it. I hope that the broader exposure will facilitate debate and further research on the topic--only time will tell. If I have any future articles of potentially broad interest, PLoS ONE will definitely be on my list of candidate journals.
  • The popularization of the article was initiated by PLoS ONE, with follow-ups by numerous journalists and bloggers. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, many of the articles are available for free. And, I am happy to say, most of them are pretty well-done.


Anonymous said...

Was this what we were waiting for...or not? Either way, awesome!! Sorry about not posting, Andy. My Internet was down this past week.

Andy said...

Yessir, it is the paper in question!