An open letter to Palaeontologia Electronica
November 23, 2010
For anyone who doesn’t already know, Palaeontologia Electronica is an on-line, open-access palaeontology journal — the only one in the world (unless you count Acta Pal Pol, which is freely available online and also published on paper.) PE is sponsored by the Palaeontological Association, the Paleontological Society and the Society of Vertebrtate Paleontology, the big three professional associations, so you can see that it’s a serious journal, not just some glorified blog. Among much else, it has published important sauropod papers such as Gomani (2005), Schwarz et al. (2005) and Rose (2007). PE is A Good Thing.
The new issue 13(3) of PE came out yesterday and was introduced by a post on the newish PE blog. In response I was moved to post a comment on that blog post. But because the blog is pretty new, it doesn’t seem to have attracted many readers yet, at least judging by the low number of comments, so I realised that what I’d said needed saying in a more widely read venue. Hence this SV-POW! article.
I am absolutely in awe of the Boltovskoy et al. World Atlas — my hat is off to everyone who worked on it, and it’s great that a reference work this comprehensive is freely available to the world.
But PE‘s tiny images are becoming more and more of an embarrassment: something has got to be done about this. It’s true that the maps in the PDFs are pretty high resolution (I can’t see exactly how high because my usual extract-images-from-PDF program isn’t working on these files for some reason). But the versions of the figures on the web-site are really inadequate — see for example Figure 6, which is a feeble 711×358 pixels — 1/4 Mp.
Compare that with, for example, Figure 10 (dorsal vertebrae) of the paper published in PLoS ONE today on new American iguanodonts. That image is 2067×2776 pixels — 5+3/4 Mp, or 22 times the size of the PE image.
Folks, I love PE and I really want it to succeed. But the PLoS journals, among others have raised the game. Hosting large images is so cheap now that it’s hard even to measure the cost: there is no excuse for PE to continue providing its figures only in what amounts to a thumbnail. Why shouldn’t the original image files submitted by the author be made available?
For me, and I am sure many other people, this is a deal-breaker. I simply can’t and won’t send any descriptive papers to PE, because when I prepare a 4100×3966 pixel figure like the one above [cervical rib "X1" of the Archbishop -- click through that images for the full-size version], I can’t tolerate having it shrunk to 711×688 to fit PE’s 711-pixel width limit — a 33-fold drop from 16 Mp to 1/2 Mp.
Please, PE. Fix this. Surely it can’t be hard?
- Gomani, Elizabeth M. 2005. Sauropod dinosaurs from the Early Cretaceous of Malawi, Africa. Palaeontologia Electronica 8(1):27A (37 pp.)
- Rose, Peter J. 2007. A new titanosauriform sauropod (Dinosauria: Saurischia) from the Early Cretaceous of central Texas and its phylogenetic relationships. Palaeontologia Electronica 10(2):8A (65 pp.)
- Schwarz, Daniela, Christian Meyer, Eberhard Lehmann, Peter Vontobel, and Georg Bongartz. 2005. Neutron tomography of internal structures of vertebrate remains: a comparison with x-ray computed tomography. Palaeontologia Electronica 8(2):30A (11 pp.)