The contribution of serendipity to the exploitation of geoscience collections [abstract]

Howe, Michael Peter Alfred. 2008 The contribution of serendipity to the exploitation of geoscience collections [abstract]. In: Exploiting Geoscience Collections, London, 12-13 May 2008. unknown, 10-11.

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Over the last 25 years, academic research in geoscience has become increasingly constrained by grantsmanship, research assessment exercises, peer-reviewed publication statistics, and the avoidance of uncertainty. It mirrors the evolution in management theory from Drucker’s 1950s concept of “Management by Objectives” into the more prescriptive “Balanced Scorecard” now in common use. Fundamental is risk reduction and the removal of uncertainty. In contrast, many key discoveries in the geosciences have depended on serendipity. There are numerous examples in palaeontology, many of these relating to the chance recognition of the true importance of historical specimens in collections. Specimen BGS GSE13821 in the collections of the British Geological Survey was obtained during the 1920s from the ‘shrimp-band’ in the Granton Sandstones, Lower Oil Shale Group, Calciferous Sandstone Measures, which occur along the Granton-Muirhouse Shore in the north of Edinburgh, Midlothian. The original locality is probably now paved over. In the early 1980s, E.N.K. Clarkson, while examining this material, realised that a specimen of Clydagnathus? cf. cavusformis Rhodes, Austin & Druce contained an in situ “conodont apparatus” in its head region, and that this was the elusive conodont animal that had been sought by palaeontologists since the initial description of conodont elements by Pander in 1856. Numerous similar discoveries have been made, including early tetrapods and birds. All of these relate to material from localities that are now inaccessible, or specimens that are extremely rare, so that geoscience collections provide the only realistic access. Such collections are an important constituent of the international geological heritage and must be protected for future exploitation.

Item Type: Publication - Conference Item (Paper)
Programmes: BGS Programmes 2008 > Information Management
Additional Keywords: Collections, Geoscience information
NORA Subject Terms: Data and Information
Earth Sciences
Date made live: 08 Oct 2008 13:51 +0 (UTC)

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