Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Interesting series of papers alert

Don't ask why, but in our ongoing research on many topics of interest (to us) we came across this short series of papers from the Marine Ecology Progress Series (spec., Vol. 191: 301-309, 1999) on the subject of publication bias. Most of us who avidly read Stephan J Gould's various essays (usually in book form) are familiar with this concept (reference to that particular essay, Cordelia's dilemma, is in the first paper) from that essay. This link is a series of five papers, probably more essays, on the topic.

This is usually considered a problem in clinical fields and has been examined in some detail (do a search at Google scholar for several). We've often wondered what effect this might have in archaeology, and have been unable to find any references on it during a relatively quick search of the Web and 26 anthropology and archaeology journals. We suspect this may be because, as opposed to other fields, archaeology generally has no real formal theory that drives it, and thus nothing can be particularly considered "negative". Certainly, however, there are many instances where authors seek to disprove (or, more charitably, "test") the empirical results of other researchers. A recent example, which we have linked to here on occasion, is Grayson and Meltzer's project to test whether there is actual evidence of hunting of extinct megafauna in North America (e.g., here).

So, we're not sure what, if any, impact this may have on the practice of archaeology. But we confess during our own research that we have been loathe to attempt to commit anything to paper that doesn't "show something" so perhaps there is something there after all. We link, you decide.

Update: Also see here. We think all of the links we presented here are non-sub.