I am lazy and must change in 2009


Over the course of my research career I have, like so many scientists, accrued a ridiculous list of 'semi-complete', 'near-complete' and 'essentially complete' research projects, all of which are sitting there, awaiting that extra investment of time and effort required to get them to the submission stage. A colleague recently accused me of being a lazy bastard because I have still not published a paper on a specimen that I've had in my care for over five years now: it's a new small theropod from the Santana Formation, definitely distinct from the other named Santana Formation theropods (Irritator challengeri Martill et al., 1996, Angaturama limai Campos & Kellner, 1996*, Santanaraptor placidus Kellner, 1999 and Mirischia asymmetrica Naish et al., 2004). Indeed, I gave a conference talk about this theropod way back in 2003: you'd think that, by now, something on it would have appeared in the technical literature. Yes, it's true, what a lazy, lazy bastard I am...

* Angaturama limai is almost certainly synonymous with Irritator challengeri, though (unfortunately) the latter beat the former into print by something like two weeks.

[If you're wondering about the Veronica Lodge cover: well, I got my reasons, ok?]

It would be trite to show exactly how lazy I've been over the past five years. Let's just look at 2008, a year in which I was excessively lazy. I only published two - ha, two - peer-reviewed papers (Naish & Martill 2008, Witton & Naish 2008), only one book review worth noting (Naish 2008a), and only one popular article (Naish 2008b). I also wrote a book (but it hasn't been published yet, so can't yet be used to show how lazy I was in 2008).


Oh, together with Mark Witton I completed a manuscript on tapejarid pterosaurs (it also has yet to see publication), I submitted a paper with two colleagues (Michael Woodley and Hugh Shanahan) on pinniped discovery rates, another with Don Henderson on flotation dynamics, another with SV-POW! boys Mike and Matt on functional anatomy, and another (a biography of the late Alan Charig) with Dick Moody. I also submitted a short paper on saurischian pneumaticity, and completed the better part of a huge editorial job that took up the first half of the year. Roger Benson, Steve Brusatte, Steve Hutt and I got a paper into press at Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. I also helped organise and run a meeting (Dinosaurs - A Historical Perspective), I helped edit an abstract volume for an international conference (the 56th Symposium on Vertebrate Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy), and I only gave four conference presentations (Moody & Naish 2008, Naish 2008c, Naish & Witton 2008, plus BCiB talk). Only four: how pathetic! [in adjacent - unrelated - image, Graeme attacks! Full caption here].

Yes, I stand guilty as charged: lazy, lazy, lazy.


So, to help me be more efficient and actually get stuff done in 2009, I've decided to write down what Mike and Matt call a Prioritised Order of Publishing (or POOP) list for 2009. This isn't the whole thing, but here are the highlights... [adjacent image shows one of the slides from the presentation that accompanied Naish (2008c)]

-- Unfortunately, tapejarid pterosaurs are top of the list. I say 'unfortunately' because another manuscript has to be completed first: a manuscript which has been extensively delayed by a co-author who shall remain nameless. It's all to do with this.
-- Yes, Dave Hone... that project. I haven't forgotten.
-- The new Santana Formation theropod should fit somewhere around here. Once it's in press maybe I won't look so lazy; my bad.
-- During 2009, a full monographic description of Neovenator will appear. That's nothing to do with me, but it acts as a reminder that the paper on the pathologies of the Neovenator holotype is now well overdue. 'All' I have to do is complete the figures.
-- The 're-evaluation of Yaverlandia' paper really must see the light of day. It needs tidying, plus incorporation of the excellent CT data I have. The primary conclusion is already out there in the literature, and even Peter Galton thinks I could be right.
-- Valdoraptor and Becklespinax must also be put to sleep.
-- I really should get the Eotyrannus monograph sorted before someone else comes along and beats me to it. Having said that, things are moving along there - more news when appropriate.

So there we have it. Sorry for being such a monumental failure, and for being so bone-idle and unproductive: I promise to work EVEN HARDER in 2009. Incidentally, I've had to give up Tet Zoo the book as I'm too lazy to finish it. Or, too busy.. I can't remember.

Refs - -

Moody, R. T. J. & Naish. D. 2008. Alan Jack Charig (1927-1997). An anecdotal tribute! In Moody, R., Buffetaut, E., Martill, D. & Naish, D. (eds) Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Saurians: A Historical Perspective. Abstracts of Meeting Held on the 6-7 May 2008. Geological Society of London, London, p. 60.

Naish, D. 2008a. [Review of] Patagonian Mesozoic Reptiles. The Palaeontology Newsletter 62, 92-97.

- . 2008b. Intelligent dinosaurs. Fortean Times 239, 52-53.

- . 2008c. Conan-Doyle [sic], Piltdown, and the dinosaur in the well: obscure Wealden dinosaurs and the stories behind them. In Moody, R., Buffetaut, E., Martill, D. & Naish, D. (eds) Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Saurians: A Historical Perspective. Abstracts of Meeting Held on the 6-7 May 2008. Geological Society of London, London, pp. 8-9.

- . & Martill, D. M. 2008. Dinosaurs of Great Britain and the role of the Geological Society of London in their discovery: Ornithischia. Journal of the Geological Society, London 165, 613-623.

- . & Witton, M. P. 2008. The feeding behaviour of azhdarchid pterosaurs. In Dyke, G., Naish, D. & Parkes, M. (eds) SVPCA 2008: Programme & Abstracts, Dublin 2008. National Museum of Ireland, Dublin, pp. 41-42.

Witton, M. P. & Naish, D. 2008. A reappraisal of azhdarchid pterosaur functional morphology and paleoecology. PLoS ONE 3 (5): e2271. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002271

More like this

Your summary of what you did this year seems to show that you're generally alot less lazy than most. My main thing this year was completing my Illustration degree, which I thankfully did, I've also been illustrating for Karl Shuker.

Merry Christmas and Happy New year :)

By Tim Morris (not verified) on 29 Dec 2008 #permalink

Also, where did you get that pic for the apeman? is there an *Illustrated* version of Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Lost World"?

By Tim Morris (not verified) on 29 Dec 2008 #permalink

Lazy? come on, you seem to have worked and submitted several manuscripts that will likely be on the 2009 published list!!

Making a to-do list seems like a good idea!! I did it once and it worked (to some extent), maybe I should do it again. I have two almost-complete manuscripts from 2003, just need to elaborate a little more and work on the pictures; a list might even get me started with other things I set out to do at the beginning of this year and have barely completed :S

Oh, and make sure you have that list in a place where you'll see it everyday!!

Publication: the world's worst measure of how productive any given year is, thanks to all the random delays brought about by co-authors, editors, reviewers, and in-press queues. Believe it or not, I was way more productive in 2008 than in any previous year, but in terms of publications I have literally nothing whatsoever to show for it -- not one.

Anyway, I now hazard a prediction that is so wholly certain to be correct that I feel bad even bothering with it: you will NOT get half of your POOP-list done and submitted this year, but you WILL get a bunch more stuff done that is not on that list, most of which you've not even thought about yet.

Mr. Naish, I'm afraid that I may be impertinent but I think I may have some experience with a similar situation to the one you find yourself in -- so I'm going to say a few things I wish I'd heard when I was younger.

First off, describing yourself as lazy is, as others have said, pretty inaccurate. You've easily produced a book's worth of material this year on this website alone and it's clear you've done quite a few other things.

I suspect the problem may be that you're more of a tactician than a strategist -- that you're overwhelmed by the vast mass of varied tasks that constitute your professional life while finding the individual tasks much easier to tackle.

Try and stop worrying about everything -- concern yourself only with the thing you're doing right now. Complete individual tasks one at a time.

You won't be able to stop worrying about everything, of course. But you can work toward making the energy you put out in that arena useful. That's your time to strategize. When you think of everything you have to do think more in terms of prioritizing smaller tasks than trying to fix the big picture.

In other words, the question you should be asking yourself should not be, "How am I going to get all this pulled together?" It should be, "What am I going to do next?"

Tell you what, it's working for me.

Keep doing good stuff!

Did you ever consider you might be too good for a career in paleontology? ;)

Nemo: No one called Darren lazy. He's a Brit, he abuses himself more effectively than anyone else ever could. Anyway why would he pay attention to anybody else's opinion? We can praise him to the heavens and it justs irritates him, because really, what do we know? If you want his attention, send him money, via the DONATION button cleverly concealed to the left and far, far below. That would irritate him, too, but it would also get his attention.

By Nathan Myers (not verified) on 29 Dec 2008 #permalink

I made second on Darren's POOP list - wow! Cheers bud, I know the Taps need to get done (I'm buried in my share too), but ti would be great to get our boy off the launchpad soon!

Thanks for comments. Tim: the picture of Doyle's ape-man comes from a children's version of The Lost World, published by Ladybird Books in 1989 (it's available on ebay for a tiny sum: buy it for the pictures).

Yes, I was recently accused of being lazy with regard to academic output. The point is that this is clearly complete bullshit, but it very much pissed me off, hence my rant here. It shouldn't bother me, but it does. Anyway, thanks to everyone for advice.

As for Irritator: this is just my opinion of course, but it ranks as one of the crappest names ever awarded to a dinosaur, up there with Gigantspinosaurus and Futalognkosaurus. Giving a meaningless, frivolous name like this to such a remarkable and charismatic fossil really does seem pretty criminal. But, oh well, the damage is done.

See, I can pronounce Irritator right off the bat

Ah - but can you? It's supposed to be said like the English word (IRRI-ta-ter) - at least, that's how Dave Martill pronounces it - but I've heard others (namely Angela Milner) say it 'irri-tat-OR'.

As for Angaturama, I'm pretty sure that an-gat-oo-RAMA is correct.

ahng-ah-too-rah-MAH. Stress on the last syllable, if I'm correctly informed, and almost certainly no [g].


What? Stress on the last syllable? Never.

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 30 Dec 2008 #permalink

About being lazy... as a student you constantly have deadlines to adhere to in order to succeed to the next level or qualification. "Learn everything in this book by next Tuesday or fail!", and so on. Therefore, once you have climbed this ladder of enforced diligence, you have the excuse to kick back and take your time with projects. I'm not suggesting that those with PhDs no longer have to worry about deadlines, just that the ones that students face could mean they can't qualify and have to start over again.

And don't give up on "Tet Zoo: The Book" (if that is its official title)... add it to the end of your to-do list!

Just so you know the Neovenator monograph came out this week, so is actually 2008 (just)...

By Paul Barrett (not verified) on 31 Dec 2008 #permalink

Darren ur defntly not lazy! (I originally wrote 'ur def not lazy' then realizd that could be misread as 'you're deaf, not lazy'. Of course defntly could be misread as 'defiantly'... fair enough, that works too... but I meant 'definitely').

Y the abbrev NEway? cos I honestly wish I could be a FRACTION as 'lazy' as Darren is, getting so much done. So to sav tm I'm abbrvtng wldly 2 get to my nXtask (oh look, that works as 'next task' or 'next ask').

trubl is I kp goin off on tngnts

By Graham King (not verified) on 31 Dec 2008 #permalink