We live in an ever-changing world, one where new mysterious appear every day while answers to old questions are edited and changed. Sometimes it can be very hard to keep up with all of the changes. Esp if those changes are not widely known or talked about.
Traditionally in the field of Paleoanthropology, this is how it works. Someone discoverers something, it is then their job, and their duty to take it back to their labs, study it, describe it, and make multiple hypotheses to further the understanding of the field.
This can take decades and is a huge brick wall to come across when one wants to study something that has not yet been made public. It is almost impossible. One must wait until the original founder is done with their work and returns the fossils to the country of origin.
As one can imagine, this makes the progression of Paleoanthropology very slow. As new discoveries are hoarded, there is simply not enough work for everyone to do, despite the fact that there is far too much work for one team to do on anyone fossil. This is how its been for over a hundred years.
Enter Professor Lee Berger at Wits University and the era of Big Data. When A. sediba was discovered, Prof. Berger did something different than any other anthropologist, he made his work publicly available to teachers and students around the world, and again in even greater fashion with the discovery of H. naledi.
This was unprecedented. A researcher showing off his discoveries before he himself even completed or even started his research. This was a dramatic shift in the way the field works.
Sharing the massive amounts of data that was collected, and in an open way, has allowed students and teachers around the world of all grades and levels to get involved with the research and play an active role in the discoveries concerning these specimen.
As of the writing of this article, I the author can at anytime go to a website (Mophosource) and download 3D Printing files of these fossils and print them myself, have my own casts and do all of my own research based off of real specifications from the actual fossils.
While casts are not new, the availability of them is something entirely new, 3D Printing is a new and exciting way to get involved in the field.
This can only be beneficial to all those involved and it is thanks to Professor Lee Berger and his progressive thinking team. Thanks to them the world of paleoanthropology will never be the same, and not even because of the massive contributions made, but because of the way in which they were handled afterward.
Thank you, Prof. Berger, and your entire team for all the hard work you have done to bring open access and education to all. The field of paleoanthropology has room for a lot of changes left to go, but we are definitely headed in the right direction.