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What lies ahead for paleontology in 2018?

We're well into 2018, and I finally have a moment to pause and think about what this year will hold for our profession and our professional society. Here are my (personal and unofficial) thoughts on what 2018 might bring.
  • Increased civic engagement by paleontologists. In the wake of the controversies surrounding Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments, many of us are paying more attention to the intersection of science and politics than ever before. Of course, there have always been those willing to step up and comment on proposed federal rules, legislation, and the like. However, I think that the new potential threats to paleontological resources and funding on federal lands have galvanized many individuals who weren't necessarily engaged previously. I challenge everyone to pay attention to the issues and educate themselves. Also, stay active on the "little" things! Is there a local problem where your expertise as a science is relevant? Paleontologists are needed there, too!
  • Continued expansion of new modes of publishing and disseminating information. Open access publishing is no longer the new kid on the block, but more vertebrate paleontology research is being published in these journals than ever before. SVP sponsors Palaeontologia Electronica, one of the very first options open to paleontologists for freely accessible publishing. Preprints are also being discussed more frequently (with some strong opinions on all sides), as well as dissemination of 3D data from fossils. I hope our field can be proactive and have the hard, open discussions about all of these issues. If we don't set our priorities, other people will set them for us!
  • Increased efforts for a more inclusive profession. Many individuals in SVP (and outside of it) are working hard to raise awareness and create real strategies to ensure that paleontology is open to all. Everyone, regardless of background, should have the opportunities, tools, and support to join our field. Science benefits when more voices are heard--and there is no shortage of interesting questions to answer or cool fossils to preserve! This almost certainly means some careful introspection, acknowledgment of areas for improvement, and genuine efforts by everyone to be better colleagues and create a more inclusive profession.
  • More exciting discoveries. Last year had some amazing finds across vertebrate paleontology, whether it was new insights on fish jaw evolution, paleogenomics of Ice Age horses, or yes, even feathered dinosaurs. Who knows what amazing science will be announced over this year! What specimens will turn up in field sites dispersed across the globe? I would bet some awesome things are in store!
--Dr. Andy Farke is the Augustyn Family Curator at the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology in Claremont, California. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own.
Posted: 2/7/2018 2:15:42 PM by andyfarkeadmin | with 0 comments
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