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How Many Taphonomists Spoil the Data? Multiple Operators in Taphofacies Studies

Thomas A. Rothfus
PALAIOS
Vol. 19, No. 5, Friday Harbor Laboratory Special Issue (Oct., 2004), pp. 514-519
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3515841
Page Count: 6
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
How Many Taphonomists Spoil the Data? Multiple Operators in Taphofacies Studies
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Abstract

The consistency of taphonomic data collected by multiple operators in taphofacies studies is examined in order to determine if the employment of multiple operators is an acceptable way of generating the large amount of data required in taphofacies studies. Through two exercises designed to train operators in scoring taphofacies data, the consistency/repeatability of scoring data in the damage categories commonly used in taphofacies analysis was examined. The results of these tests seem to indicate that using multiple operators within a single study introduces vast amounts of inconsistency into the data. Most troubling is that consistency among operators in their scoring is so low that any attempt at comparing the results between studies by different authors would seem destined to encounter tremendous variation in the scoring of taphonomic data and not be feasible. Closer examination of the causes of the inconsistency among the operators, however, suggests that, with increased experience and a clear understanding of the definitions being employed, these problems should be reduced greatly. Based on this work, it is recommended that any taphonomic study making use of multiple operators first use a series of exercises in order to minimize the tremendous amount of error possible if consistent operators are not identified and used. While this work has focused on taphofacies studies and multiple operators, the results and recommendations presented here likely are relevant to many biological and paleontological studies that employ multiple operators.

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