Show me the data!

Answers to questions about the SVP meeting abstract embargo

August 27th, 2012 | Posted by rmounce in Panton Fellowship updates

Considering I emailed him on a Friday, Darin Croft has done well to reply to my questions about the SVP abstract embargo so soon, on Monday. I don’t always get such swift replies, so that is much appreciated. [Thanks Darin!]

Below is his email in full, as promised (the bits in quotes are my original questions) publicly supplied so the confusion can be cleared-up for all:

> 1.) What would happen if a researcher (and SVP member) deliberately broke
> the embargo and blogged/tweeted/published research that was the basis of
> their own submitted talk abstract (I’m surprised this hasn’t happened
> already tbh, given how early the abstract deadline is – some e-journals have
> very quick turnaround times…)

Our embargo is meant to protect the researchers themselves so that
they have greater control over when and how their research is made
accessible to members of the media. Therefore, our embargo policy does
not apply to a researcher publicizing their own work. This has, in
fact, happened many times already, typically in the scenario you note
(i.e., a researcher’s work is published after the abstract deadline
but before the annual meeting). Based on your question, perhaps this
is something we should clarify to avoid confusion.

> 2.) What would happen if a researcher (and SVP member) broke the embargo and
> blogged or tweeted some or all the of the content of another researcher’s
> talk abstract

This would most likely be referred to the SVP’s Ethics Committee,
which is the standard procedure in the case of possible violations of
the SVP’s Bylaws or policies by a member.

> 3.) If a blogger or journalist *did* write an article or two on the basis of
> the meeting abstract booklet – do you seriously think that could harm the
> chances of VP’ers getting published in one of the glamour mags?

I believe this has actually occurred in the past, though before my
tenure as Chair of the Media Liaison Committee. Regardless, I cannot
speak for what the editors of high profile journals might or might not
do in such an instance. I would suggest you contact them directly. Our
current policy is that the potential risk for researchers does not
outweigh any potential benefit.

I hope that information is useful. Thank you for letting me know
beforehand that you plan to publish these responses.



[End of email]

So, from that it seems we can at least talk about our own abstracts. I still disagree that the potential ‘risk’ of freely accessible abstracts outweighs the benefits, but I’ll leave it there for now – I’m just happy to let you all know what my talk is about without fear of losing the talk slot!

I thoroughly agree with Darin that they should change the wording of the policy next year to make this clearer, because frankly what is written in the embargo policy currently (as emailed to all conference registrants) clearly contradicts what Darin says here, and I’m not the only one to have been confused and slightly annoyed by this.

I’d also be intrigued to know more about the SVP’s Ethics Committee procedures, Bylaws and rules. Perhaps there is a URL for these somewhere? But I will not pursue that any further now.

That just leaves me to say that my talk for this year’s SVP will be:


by Ross Mounce & Matthew A Wills, University of Bath

Previous phylogenetic work using conventional character partition homogeneity tests has
often revealed significant incongruence between cranial and postcranial character data. We
extend this approach by applying pairwise character compatibility tests across a sample of
more than 60 pseudo-independent vertebrate data sets. We contrast ‘fuzzy’ compatibility,
boildown bootstrap and clique approaches. In particular, we find that the Le Quesne
probability (LQP) has several desirable properties. The LQP is simply the probability that a
randomly permuted character will have incompatibility with other characters in the matrix
as low or lower than that of the original character. Within recent analyses of Sauropod taxa
we find that characters related to neural arches often conflict with dental characters in some
datasets but it is difficult to generalise; we are still exploring possible causative mechanisms
for this. In contrast, other vertebrate groups such as ratites appear to have relatively
little character conflict between morphological characters. Pairwise tests of character
compatibility work well with binary data and ordered multistate characters, but can only give
an indication of ‘potential compatibility’ with unordered multistate characters. Composite
‘higher’ taxa and polymorphic codes are also problematic for existing compatibility
software, typically creating artificial incompatibilities. We recommend that composite taxa
are decomposed into their constituents in order to remove ambiguity for the purpose of these
tests, or else that polymorphic states are treated as missing data.

It’s part review, part defence of an oft ignored method, and part meta-analysis of lots of datasets using congruence methods to look at character compatibility. It forms part of my thesis work on comparing different statistical methods to compare and contrast the utility & congruence of morphological characters in phylogenetic analyses.

Great to be able to talk about my research without worry :)