Paleonet: A reply to an Open Letter in Support of Digital Data Archiving

Martin Farley mbfarley at
Mon Mar 28 23:45:14 GMT 2011

I think many issues have been commented that a one-size-fits-all
disclosure policy won't work. There are a couple I want to mention.

1) Archiving of all data may be illegal in some circumstances. At the
Portland GSA (2009), we heard a report about new law and regulations
governing collecting of fossils on public lands in the U.S. regardless of
who funds the work. (For those outside the U.S., I'll mention that much
land west of the Mississippi River is public, which greatly simplifies
access.) Under these regulations, it is apparently illegal to disclose
specific locality information. This is part of a misguided (in my opinion)
effort to restrict fossil collecting on public lands, based on the notion
that all fossils are rare.  As I have not needed recently to do fieldwork
on public lands, I haven't followed any modifications in the proposed
regulations since Fall 2009, so the situation may not be quite as I
describe. Still, for US public land, no funding agency or journal has
authority to contravene laws and regulations of the U.S. Dept. of

2) Although Mike Styzen didn't comment on this specifically, there are
significant issues associated with data generated in the oil industry that
leads to publication. For example, to release all data (whatever that
might mean; well logs? seismic lines?) associated with some industry work
would require not only agreement of all the partner companies in the area
involved (and sometimes service companies, for seismic data), but often
the approval of the host government. This is often not forthcoming for
nationalistic or idiosyncratic reasons. (I have heard of cases where one
arm of a national oil company didn't want another arm to know the precise
depths of the samples used to construct a published biostratigraphic

Truly yours,

Martin Farley (mbfarley at
Dept. of Geology & Geography
Pembroke, NC

On Mon, March 28, 2011 2:08 pm, Jere Lipps wrote:
> I think it's fine to talk about these things.  Most of us can hit delete
> when we get tired of it.  In the meantime, it is a critical issue of
> major importance, and fully worth discussing by someone.

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