Human Fossil Databases & Data Theft

Hominid fossil databases are a very difficult undertaking to curate and create. One of my mentors and colleagues, Dr. Henry Gilbert created a very impressive Fossilized.org database. He organized the fossils based upon geography, phylogenetics, history, species, and geochronology. I consider it a one of a kind database.

Fossilized.org Screenshot

Evolution of Man

It troubles me to see that Hans Peter, author of the German website, The Evolution of Man, has taken all of Dr. Gilbert’s data and used it in his own database without any citation. This is is blatant data theft and it is disrespectful. Gilbert has a liberal copyright toward his database for the structure, design and content. He effectively has released the data under a Creative Commons noncommercial attribution only license; making easy for one to use his data as long as its appropriately cited. When someone makes it so easy to share data with just a citation, it prompts me to wonder what is Hans Peter trying to accomplish?

I’ve sent an email out to Hans Peter to ask him what his motivations are and request he appropriately site Fossilized.org. I am waiting to hear back from him and will update once I do.

I also wanted to ask you, Anthropology.net, readers how you feel about this phenomenon among colleagues. Does it bother you? If not, why? If so, how can we prevent it from happening?

3 thoughts on “Human Fossil Databases & Data Theft

  1. Kambiz Kamrani,

    I would like to use this platform to apologize again for Henry Gilbert.

    I never wanted to steal the data from fossilized.org. The German website evolution-mensch.de, for which I am responsible, was created to spread the fascination of human evolution in German language.

    Unfortunately I did an unforgivable error committed: namely to provide information online, without mentioning the original authors.

    In the future, I will better be careful on what I may publish and what not.

    Since I am a hobby archaeologist “only”, I am pleased every time there is something new to report about the evolution of man. So I ask the community to forgive me this error. An error like this is no longer undermine me with security.

    regards
    Dipl. Ing. Hans-Peter Willig
    (evolution-mensch.de)

  2. Thanks Kambiz.

    Hans Peter, who seems like a pretty good guy, made contact with me immediately, and he has agreed to cite me and not associate adds with the data. This type of use is EXACTLY what I had in mind by composing the fossilized.org site, and I think that it is very noble that Hans Peter made immediate contact with me and fixed thing.

    Who says scientists can’t get along?

  3. I feel that it was unfair for Peter to use Dr. Gilbert’s hard work without a citation, and also without notification. If these records are so difficult to create it is completely reasonable for the creator to want and to have his work cited so that everyone knows he did the hard part of it, not just used it in some article or book to convey a point or opinionated theory.

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