Creative reuse of OA materials

Last week also demonstrated another benefit of Open Access. Not just that everyone could re-use the images from the Ida paper without wondering "is this too much for Fair Use principles?" (yes, I have seen people re-post every single image from the paper into their articles/posts, plus lengthy excerpts of text), but people could do fun stuff to them as well, and even use it for commercial endeavors.

And I am not talking just about the Google logo last Wednesday!

First to make a creative reuse of an article image was Ed Yong in his brilliant and hilariously funny post Darwinius changes everything in which Ida appears on toast:


Richard Carter was next, depicting Ida playing saxophone:


But then, there is also a way to use the hype to counteract hype...and make some money in the process. The first store I saw that is selling t-shirts and other merchandise with Ida on it was this one. You can get This Mug Which is Not Missing:

i-45331377a414ec4c0de926133b27a0f7-Darwinius mug.jpg

Or you can choose one of the t-shirts for which the proceeds go to a good cause, the Beagle Project, with a good message "There is no such thing as a missing link":

i-48814c8893224424e493ec62123162fd-Darwinius nomissinglink shirt.jpg

And you can find other t-shirt designs in this shop and this shop and this shop - perhaps walking around wearing one of these will be a conversation starter, or will get a kid to want to become a palaeontologist when s/he grows up, who knows.

Now, if I were a palaeontologist and got my hands on such a spectacular, one-in-a-lifetime fossil, I'd milk it for all it's worth, too. I'd certainly not put all of the analysis in one paper - then what, retire? I'd also publish the description first, with a lot of fanfare if I could get it. Then I would spread all sorts of other analyses over several more papers - as it appears they are planning to do - including the cladistic analysis for those who think science without numbers is not scientific enough (forgetting the GIGO law and that every single thing input into the cladistic analysis programs is an assumption - I was astonished when I took a dinosaur class with Dale Russell some 10 years ago how the palaeontologists' assumptions about traits - which are hard to evolve, thus likely to show up only once, and which are easy to evolve, thus could re-appear in independent lineages over and over again - differed dramatically from my thinking of developmental switches; who knows who was right about any trait - we both had our assumptions).

Now, I really hope they choose Open Access venues (perhaps PLoS ONE again) for the subsequent papers so the entrepreneurs in the future can print t-shirts with cladograms - imagine the street-fights inevitably breaking out between t-shirt wearing palaeontologists arguing the correctness of the depicted tree! Can't do that if the journal holds the copyright to the images!

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"including the cladistic analysis for those who think science without numbers is not scientific enough"

Ouch. It's not that they didn't include cladistics, description IS very important, it's that they made MAJOR claims about rearranging the primate family tree both in the paper and in public. The placement of Ida as closer to us or further from us is what is at the base of this whole brouhaha, and it would have been nice to have some actual data to talk about.

Every paper has a "speculation" section at the end that serves as a teaser for the next paper as well as a "staking the ground" on the question ("I said it first here and I will publish the paper testing it later - don't you dare encroach on my territory"). Part of the kabuki of the language in scientific publishing.

One thing is sure, it will be very difficult, after all this, to blame journalists for being the only ones who are "over-hyping" science... Especially if this Ida story becomes the standard for future scientists who want instant fame... :-)