HOW TO GET A REPUTATION IN
A TWELVE-STEP PROGRAM
All budding paleontologists want to gain a
reputation. There are two ways to do it. Hereís one way.
- Keep your eyes and ears open for ideas your
paleo colleagues and friends have. Write them up and publish as soon as you
can. After all, who will believe him/her when your name is on the paper?
- When a paleontologist tells you about a new
locality with significant fossils, get there fast and collect as much as you
can. Publish quickly. After all, youíve got the specimens, how can he/she
- When you review a manuscript or grant of a
paleontologist you donít like or who has too much already, sock it to Ďem.
You donít even need to read it if you really think he or she is an ass.
Check the reject box. Donít sign. After all, who will ever know?
- When your student(s) tells you a neat new idea,
publish it yourself. After all, she/he is just a student and may never
amount to much anyway, right? If you are the student, do the reverse. A
decent professor canít really squawk too much or he/she will look foolish.
- When you work with another paleontologist, donít
let him/her know what you are really doing, then publish without him/her. If
he/she is a decent person, he/she wonít care. And after all, who else will
- Demand that all of your students list you as an
author. After all, you let them in your lab, and you let them use your
beakers or maybe your own rock pick, right?
- When planning field work with a colleague,
change the dates late so that he/she canít go no matter what he/she
contributed to the logistics or science. Spend the money. Use the equipment.
After all, he/she canít complain without seeming to be a miser, a bad
accountant or just grumpy, right?
- If you screw up equipment or specimens, sneak
them on to someone elseís desk. After all, who will know?
- When on field trips, listen carefully to the
leader. He/she is the expert and chances are he/she will mention some work
in progress and even tell you the conclusions. You can quickly take a sample
in the exact right spot, if you ask, and then you can publish the work
yourself. After all, you paid your money and he/she said you could collect,
- Grab important samples whenever you can. This
is easiest with unconsolidated sediment full of microfossils, so you may
have to change fields for a short time. You could easily slip a handful of
deep-sea sediment, for example, from the sides of a core barrel, into your
pocket and publish the biota later. After all, who will ever know how you
got the sample?
- You can steal some fossils from a museum or
another workerís lab, and write them up. After all, it/he/she might not
even miss them, right? Probably you shouldnít do this unless you are
getting desperate to improve your reputation.
- You could just buy some nice fossils and write
a paper about them. Include some stratigraphy, geology and locality data, as
long as it is remote. Doesnít have to be too accurate. After all, who is
likely ever to go there?
- (Okay, I fibbed about there being 12 steps, but
this one is particularly risky and I donít really recommend it. Itís
fine for your reputation as long as no one discovers it; after that you are
likely to be out on your ear fast, looking for a gas station job, so be real
careful with this one!) If you donít want to do this 12-step program, skip
it altogether and go directly to the obscure literature, preferably in
another language. Find a good paper. Translate it and publish it under your
own name. After all, who is likely ever to read the original? (This is the
risky part: in the new on-line world the answer is "likely
What? You wouldnít do any of these things? Ha!
Someone does them. I didnít make them upóeach of them has been demonstrated
to me, some several times in the last few years. Some I overheard from other
paleontologists who complained; two of them happened to me! Look around. You donít
even need to ask. Sooner, more likely than later, you will see that others do
them too, sometimes even to you. Join the group. Get your own reputation. Lots
of people do it. Feel good about it. You might even get promoted. Look at
Richard Nixonóhe made it to the top of the worldís list of most important
leaders! And he did it this way, more or less.
Copyright: Palaeontologia Electronica,
30 August 2002