Sunday, June 7, 2015

Extra Research Necessary?

Dr. Caleb M. Brown, a researcher at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta, Canada, had two goals in one of his most recent papers.

One was to detail the discovery of Regaliceratops peterhewsi, a new species of dinosaur that resembles the well-known Triceratops but has smaller horns over its eyes, a larger one at its nose and a much more elaborate bony plate behind its head.

The other was to propose. The closing sentence of the acknowledgements section, in which writers usually offer their thanks to people who aided in research and preparing a paper, was a personal thanks to Lorna O'Brian, Brown's girlfriend, and a proposal. The publisher knew about the note and had no problem with it, and the entire event seems to have come to a happy conclusion as Ms. O'Brian said yes upon viewing a preprint of the article.

Scientific papers are usually subjected to a process called peer review, in which other scientists in the same field check the work of those who write the paper. They may or may not agree with conclusions reached by the authors, but their goal is just making sure that experimental data weren't fudged or someone did something silly like say 2+2=5 or something. There is no word on whether or not Dr. Brown's proposal was so reviewed, but with her agreement Ms. O'Brian offered the opinion of the one peer who mattered the most and it seems a retraction will not be necessary.


fillyjonk said...

Given how long it takes (at least in my field) to get a paper reviewed and published...well, wow, that's stringing someone along for a long time before proposing.

Also, I'm torn about the scientific name. On the one hand, +1 for the Hellboy reference, but on the other hand, I tend to really prefer DESCRIPTIVE names that refer to some quality of the organism, like roughness or color or number of appendages....

Friar said...

None of the stories I could find mentioned if this was something he decided to do after peer review and knowing it was about to be published or if he included it from the first steps. My guess is the former.

For descriptive, maybe they should have found a Latin form of "Vegas showgirl headdress" to describe the bony plates... ;-)