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Re: [dinosaur] A response to Ben's Personal Comments

Gesendet: Montag, 16. September 2019 um 15:26 Uhr
Von: "Tom Caggiano" <tomcagg@aol.com>
An: bcreisler@gmail.com, dinosaur-l@usc.edu, svp@vertpaleo.org
Cc: george@stonejungle.com, john.issa@korite.com, neal@larsonpaleo.com
Betreff: [dinosaur] A response to Ben's Personal Comments
A couple of points:
Second, The vilification of commercial paleontology is stupid, short sighted and should be stopped!!!!
Commercial paleo people are not some reincarnation of the Devil.
Some of them, of course, are.
It takes just a few seconds in Google to find specimens for sale that are of immense scientific value but are completely unknown to science and will remain so unless the buyer or their heirs or their heirs' heirs will one day happen to make them accessible to scientists one way or another. And when the specimen is known to exist, that still doesn't necessarily help: an Archaeopteryx specimen has disappeared that way – the owner died years ago, and the whereabouts of the specimen are completely unknown.
Then of course there are those who dig for commercial purposes without regard for the information they destroy in the process, or who forge specimens to drive their prices up. Deinocheirus and "Archaeoraptor" are two examples we happen to know about. Or consider the doubts over whether Tetrapodophis really comes from the Crato Formation in Brazil as described, or instead from Lebanon.
If this doesn't describe you, great! More power to you! I know, of course, that not all commercial collectors or private owners are as careless about the public interest. Some private owners have agreed to putting legally binding restrictions on their own collections to ensure present and future access for science, e.g. given up the right to sell the collection unless a legislature agrees; I hope to publish on a specimen in such a collection myself soon.

You speculate that there are similar horror stories in science, and indeed there are – up to a point. In my field, a colleague published a brief announcement of highly important material (with a reconstruction drawing of just the skull that didn't show which parts were actually known) in a very prestigious journal – and then locked the specimens up in his institution for forty years, reportedly letting nobody look at them, while he published a short description of a small part of the animal about once every decade on average, before getting a grad student and finally publishing a useful description. But this story has a happy end, and indeed it couldn't avoid having a happy end: if the colleague had suddenly died before getting around to publishing for real, the specimens would still be there, and they would be accessible. Not so for the privately owned Archaeopteryx, or for who knows how many mantelpieces of who knows what from northeastern China or west-central Germany, or Burmese amber with who knows what inclusions.
In short, the SVP's and the DML's policies may not be nuanced enough to cover every single case, but they are quite understandable.