Shortly, this blog will be moving to a new home within the European Geosciences Union blog network! Somehow, they get the idea that a blog with the url ‘fossilsandshit’ would be appropriate for their needs. Anyway, as part of this, the blog needs to become more focussed. That means no more miscellaneous rants, no more diversions on to drugs policy, and much to my dismay, no more swearing*. Bollocks. What it does mean, is loads more Palaeontology! Possibly with some ranting (according to my tags, this is what y’all like the most anyway? How cynical.)
As such, it seems like a perfect opportunity to try something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I’m sure many have done it before, or at least had the idea, but screw it I’m doing it anyway. In about a month, I’m starting a PhD in London! I’ll be investigating the Jurassic-Cretaceous boundary to see if there’s a ‘hidden’ mass extinction in terrestrial organisms, as well as looking in detail at some groups such as atoposaurid crocodylomorphs. This is to feed into a much larger ongoing project to reconstruct the patterns and processes of vertebrate biodiversity from their origins on land to now. Neat eh!
This is what I think it’s going to be like..
So, with this in mind, and the impending relocation (although I’m not 100% clear on the details yet), I figured I’d try and sort of live-blog my PhD, from day 1 to day 1000, or however long it’s going to take. The idea is to open up the PhD process, by going into what exactly a vertebrate palaeontologist does nowadays, as well as the more general aspects of PhD life. This means going into the details of the processes, not just ‘hey look I didz a graph’, but ‘here’s how you can replicate this analysis 100% if you wanted, and here’s why it’s awesome/I’m doing it’. I’m still expecting this PhD to be an awesome ride, as opposed to some of the more negative stories floating around the interwebz recently, and hopefully will be able to convey this and show that doing a PhD is something pretty damn awesome still. Of course, it could be shit, and you might just read weekly posts of “added some data, computer died, beat up undergrad, ate soup made from cold water and ketchup”, and the like, but hopefully it’ll be a bit more of a dynamic insight than these delights.
Rationale: If I’m doing something I love, why wouldn’t I want to write about it, and if it’s something I think is awesome, why wouldn’t I wouldn’t to tell everyone else about it?? I wouldn’t be doing a PhD otherwise. Also, my memory is pretty naff, so it’ll be nice to have a record of the experience.
Some of you are probably thinking, ‘but if you open up your PhD, won’t you just get scooped on the idea you’re investigating?’ This thought has crossed my mind, but frankly, I’m not going to be doing anything that isn’t theoretically beyond anyone else’s reach anyway, as the data is all openly available, as is much of the software I’ll be using too. Naturally, I might have to keep some of the conclusions slightly secret, until I publish them in an open access journal anyway. Every publication I’m first author on in future is going to be fully available, as far as it’s possible for me to make in terms of content and data. Taxes paid by you all are allowing me to conduct this research, so I’ll be damned if a single aspect of it will be paid for again.
I’ll post weekly updates on here, and using Twitter under the #OpenPhD hash tag, when the time comes. What I hope this will achieve is some sort of dialogue were people can see not just the end result of research, but query the processes, and gain some understanding of the scientific process at the same time. And of course, opening up the discussion means that I might be able to crowd-source some valuable points of view from you great peeps!
Any feedback on this idea will be greatly appreciated, and if you want to join in then go ahead! The more the merrier!
Stand back, I’m about to try a science..
Source: Probably XKCD
*A separate outlet may have to be found for this, if (=when) needed