When ambitious large-scale projects are proposed, like the Paleobiology Database (Alroy et al. 2001) and Panama Paleontology Projects (Jackson and Johnson 2001), there is inevitably a negative reaction from various quarters, which is quickly forgotten when the projects start to yield results. Given that, it may be useful to sing the praises of “big picture” science more generally and I will do so after briefly addressing this discussion starter in the context of my own research.

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Albeit a truism, it is also a profound truth that the kinds of patterns we observe and the kinds of...

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