Matt and I have got to stop chatting

March 5, 2013

Matt and I made a sacred pact not to even think about any new work until we’d got our due-by-the-end-of-March papers done.

But then we got chatting, and accidentally started three new projects. Possibly four. And that’s just today.

*headdesk*

Who knows how many of them will ever see the light of day? Realistically, we are surely going to have to kill some of them if we’re ever going to get anything finished. But two of them at least are likely to show up here as the kick-offs of crowdsourced projects. And we have to keep reminding ourselves: NOT TILL APRIL!

As Matt signed off tonight, he wrote:

Matt: Okay, now I gotta go.
Good chat.
Mike: Yeah, like TOO good.
Matt: Or disastrous, from the preventing-new-projects perspective.

We need to get to a point where we can just talk without all this Science spilling out everywhere.

I made you a chat, but I Scienced on it.

But how can we not, when sauropods are so damned fascinating?!

 

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13 Responses to “Matt and I have got to stop chatting”

  1. Nathan Myers Says:

    Now you see why I said (on Thomas H’s blog) that ideas are cheap.

    Anybody competent always has far more worthwhile ideas than while to work on them. Nobody else competent has time to work on them either. Good ideas protect themselves: only the best recognize the best ideas. It takes a great deal of hard work to make a good idea valuable. The best ideas just evoke the most work. Mentioning a spare idea, though, might spark another one good enough to make you (or them) drop what you’re doing to pursue it.

    There are reasons why more happens where information is shared freely.

  2. Mike Taylor Says:

    Exactly!

    On 5 March 2013 19:52, Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week

  3. brian engh Says:

    I place the blame squarely on Matt. He got me going on a project I probably don’t have time for (but that i am enjoying working on too much for responsible things like ‘prioritizing’)…

  4. Nathan Myers Says:

    (Sorry, that was on Dave H’s blog, Archosaur Musings.)

  5. Matt Wedel Says:

    Anybody competent always has far more worthwhile ideas than while to work on them.

    I would say that anybody competent eventually has far more worthwhile ideas than while to work on them. It was not true for me for a long time (I am immodestly designating myself as competent for the purposes of this discussion). I vividly remember the early days when I could still count the number of publishable ideas I’d had, and naively entertained the possibility of someday getting around to all of them.

    Nobody else competent has time to work on them either.

    Unless they’re just starting out, and haven’t had time to develop their own ideas. Or unless they are unscrupulous, and decide that it would be better to pursue your ideas than work on their own. I suppose it depends on what you mean by ‘competent’ here–you could define that so narrowly that nobody competent is ever capable of theft. But if you are arguing that theft is not a valid concern for researchers, then the evidence is against you.

    Good ideas protect themselves: only the best recognize the best ideas.

    Hmm. I think the reverse is often true: sometimes the best ideas are the ones that everyone grasps intuitively, after they’ve been pointed out. Like the Egg of Columbus. I have a specific example in mind, but unfortunately it relates to a project I’m working on that I will not be sharing here ahead of time. If either of us remembers this conversation in a year or two, we can revisit it and we’ll see if my sitting on the idea was justified or not.

    It takes a great deal of hard work to make a good idea valuable.

    Now that I agree with. There is a world of difference between simply asserting that tyrannosaurs must have run like ostriches (or whatever), and doing all of the work that John Hutchinson has–on hindlimb muscle homologies, limb biomechanics, mass estimates, biological scaling, and more–to try to figure out how (or if) tyrannosaurs actually ran.

    BUT it’s also true that with Egg-of-Columbus-type ideas, researchers get a lot more bang for their buck by keeping their powder dry until go time. Since I do that myself, I am hardly going to blame anyone else for doing it, too.

    Now, if someone else comes up with my same Egg-of-Columbus idea in the meantime, and blabs it, I’ve got basically two choices: decide the game is up and go work on something else, or see it through and do the best job possible, even if I’m not the first to float the idea. I think I prefer the second option, but since it’s never happened to me, I’m just guessing.

    Anyway, looking back over my career to date, I can tell you that I have gotten the best feedback not for the papers that contained (what I considered) the best ideas, but for the papers that embodied the most work. Which often just boils down to data. Hypotheses (ideas) are ephemeral, data (facts) are eternal.

    Mentioning a spare idea, though, might spark another one good enough to make you (or them) drop what you’re doing to pursue it.

    Yeah, for real. Not all of my ideas are of the Egg-of-Columbus sort, and even just with EoCs it is doubtful I will get to all of them. Which is why we’re going to try to do more actual open science on this blog, and only keep mum about the relatively few projects where we think we have something to protect.

    There are reasons why more happens where information is shared freely.

    Agreed!

  6. Mike Taylor Says:

    The main reason I hate Aetogate so much, and so despise SVP’s failure to act on it, is because of the chilling effect it’s still having, years later, even on people like Matt.

  7. Nathan Myers Says:

    If somebody runs with your good idea, that leaves you time to work on something else. “Oh, are you picking that up? Good man.”

  8. Mike Taylor Says:

    I’m inclined to agree — but with two caveats.

    First, if the person who first had the idea makes it clear that they are planning to work on it, or better still already doing so, then it’s better that someone else not start duplicating the work.

    Second, if the other person does start working on it, it’s only polite to let the originator know so that they don’t start duplicating. (That “letting them know” is maybe most politely phrased as a request for permission.)

  9. David Hone Says:

    “Aha, found it:

    https://archosaurmusings.wordpress.com/2009/11/03/a-concern-with-internet-discussions-and-academic-honesty/

    Dave banned me from AM over this observation.”

    Ah I do so love it when people lie about things and in such a manner that is so easy to disprove. Nathan was never banned, and certainly not over that comment. As can be clearly seen since he one he links to there was on the 4th of November 2009 and yet he’s still commenting on the Musings some days later on the 8th : https://archosaurmusings.wordpress.com/2009/11/05/guest-post-now-is-not-the-time-to-sell-science-short/

    What I *did* do was *ask* him to stop posting because of his unrelenting negativity and not least in part over things he said to a friend about her husband.

    I did ask him to leave and I was quite glad he stopped. However I am absolutely %$£@$-ed if I am going to let him get away with a) stating I banned him and b) that it was over that specific comment. Neither is true, and can be easily demonstrated by the threads of comments. Do not lie about me or things I have said / done.

    You can guess but however minor a little issue this is, I’m quite livid about it.

  10. Mike Taylor Says:

    Thanks for clearing that up, Dave.

    Now, to prevent this comment thread degenerating into a he-said-she-said, I am going to ask that neither of you perpetuate it by discussing this issue any further on this forum. If you want to take it elsewhere, of course, you’re perfectly free to; but further comments here will be deleted.

  11. Nathan Myers Says:

    It should astonish us that anything is ever communicated successfully… yet we mustn’t give up. Resolutely steering back on topic…

    To me the best outcome of discovering you were both working in the same area would be a co-authored paper, or co-published papers. I understand how institutional pressures make that difficult.

  12. Mike Taylor Says:

    (Thanks for coming back on topic.)

    To me the best outcome of discovering you were both working in the same area would be a co-authored paper, or co-published papers.

    In theory, I agree. In practice, not so much. My experience is that collaborations always take longer than solo-authored projects, and that’s especially true when the collaboration results from a collision of two apparently aligned separate projects.

    Way back in 2006 Matt and I read a three-page paper that we strongly disagreed with and very quickly wrote most of a response. Before we could finish it, we found that some colleagues (people that we greatly like and respect) were also working on a response, equally critical for largely different reasons. Stupidly, we agreed to join forces. Seven years later, that joint response remains unpublished, and I don’t even know whether the lead author is still in palaeo at all. In the meanwhile, through the process of repeated revisions by six authors, the focus of the “joint” paper drifted so far from Matt’s and my expertise that I’m not sure I even understand most of it now, and have wondered whether, if the project ever awakens from its slumber, I should ask to have my name taken off it.

    We should just have pushed on and published our short, simple response; and allowed the other group to push on with their complementary one.


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