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Beaten to the punch...

Discussion in 'Public Health Degrees (Masters and Doctoral)' started by MPHopeful, Mar 12, 2007.

  1. MPHopeful

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    :( Has anyone had this happen to them?....

    Over the past two weeks I've developed a great research topic that I planned to be the basis of my MPH/MsPH thesis and springboard me into a research career. :idea: It's a great idea, new, fresh, and ties together all of my very long standing and seemingly disparate interests. I just know it will stand out to the admissions committees of the schools I'm going to apply to this fall.

    Or so I thought. Today while online I stumbled on a new site and my eyes widened in horror. There was my research topic... in headlines! :eek: A young Master's student featured in the article. She had finished a publication thats due out soon etc.

    Anybody else been beaten to the punch?
     
  2. jasmine2018

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    Yep - it's called being 'scooped.' Happens ALL the time in research. I had been working on a paper for over a year and just as I was about to send to a journal for publication, almost the exact same research is published in another journal - had to bag the whole thing. Sucks but that's life in research.
     
  3. OP
    OP
    MPHopeful

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    Wow. It has its own term. Yeah it does suck. Thanks for your reply.

    My only consolation is that her research is not specifically from a public health perspective although it tangentially incorporates some aspects of it. And also my plan for research is wider. That research area is just one of three I plan to propose and link together in my personal statement for my Master's and later professional research. So I still plan to go ahead with it and actually if I can swing it right (differentiate the two projects enough), I may be able to work WITH her when I get started on my own stuff. *keeps fingers crossed*

    But yeah, my research topic was "so me" and i think that is probably what shocked me most. That there was someone else out there with the same unique combination of interests tied together in (almost) the same way.
     
  4. AndrewJ42

    AndrewJ42 Member
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    jasmine, i believe the term "scooped" infers that the other party found out about your research and therefore rushed to expereiment/publish...yes this does happen all the time..like if one group shows their work at a symposium far in advance from publishing...kind've sad...and yes it's unethical for the other group to 'scoop'...but then again, it's one's fault if you show the work too soon :)
     
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  5. namazu

    namazu Member
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    Andrew, I've heard "scooped" used to refer to the more benign cases, in which two groups were working on similar things, and one managed to publish before the other. As in journalism, it just means that someone got to the story/results before someone else did. And that seems to fit the OP's situation pretty well.

    I don't think that rushing to publish because you want to be first is unethical. Hypercompetitive, perhaps, but unethical, no.

    But if you're talking about actually stealing ideas from other researchers without proper credit and/or the option to collaborate, then that's plagiarism/intellectual property theft. And that's unethical. I think that's different from being scooped - that's being mugged.
     
  6. AndrewJ42

    AndrewJ42 Member
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    you just have to be careful when you present something that's unpublished as a poster presentation or an oral presentation doesn't give you intellecutual property rights on whatever you're presenting...kind've weird, but unless it gets peer reviewed it's not considered as an "idea"...that's just what i understand from working at the NIH lol... academic politics...fun!
     
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  7. jasmine2018

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    I FULLY agree! Being 'scooped' is used quite often in the field (I'm an epidemiologist with a gov't research institution for many years now) to describe someone else publishing before you but not in the sense that they've 'stolen' the idea somehow. In fact it was my director that commented that I had been 'scooped' when research that I had never presented or released anywhere showed up in another journal (not uncommon when using public-use datasets). Anyway, again, it does happen ALL the time and it's definitely not fun, but part of a research career.

    And yes, namazu, I asked my director and it is a term taken from the field of journalism in fact.;)
     
  8. namazu

    namazu Member
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    Yeah, I don't disagree that there are unfortunately some unscrupulous people out there, and you have to manage your results wisely. (Of course, there's a balance between paranoia and collaborative spirit that each researcher must find.)

    I will claim absolutely no knowledge of the finer points of intellectual property law, though... :) Do you know if having your abstract published in conference proceedings gives you any "official" claim to the idea?
     
  9. namazu

    namazu Member
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    Sorry - I totally didn't mean to hijack your thread and turn it into a discussion of terminology...

    I haven't had this happen to me quite so directly in my graduate studies, but I have definitely come up with great ideas (usually just in my head - not anything I published) only to hear a few months later that some biotech company patented the same idea and is going to make millions off of it. Sigh. ;) Now I need to work on writing my thesis, so that I don't get scooped on that topic! (And more importantly, so I can graduate, and even more importantly, because the results could potentially help people...)

    The nice thing about the natural sciences is that there are often many ways to approach problems, and always a need for replication. I hope you'll find a way to adjust your project so that you can do something new without having to start from scratch -- it sounds like you have already begun thinking along those lines and I'm sure you'll come up with some interesting twist on the problem. Best of luck! Let us know how it turns out!
     
  10. AndrewJ42

    AndrewJ42 Member
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    What's funny is that we (at the NIH) have to do this lab "ethics" discussion every year...(it's pretty lame...but it's fun to see the wiser and older PIs get up there and joke about it)..but from what I understand, an abstract at a conference doesn't give you any "official" claim to the idea as it wasn't peer reviewed..but then again, I guess it is possible to slam another lab if they do something exactly like yours and they were on the list of people who were at the conference (the reason that all conference attendees have to be registered) so I guess you do have some leeway there.

    It is too bad that science has become a business and strayed far from collaborative work, but people have to make money somehow and these days having that brilliant idea first gets you the cake...ahhh how capitalism just finds its way into every part of life...don't you just love America?
     
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  11. OP
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    MPHopeful

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    Thanks namazu and everyone. I'll have a result on "how it goes" at the end of the next admissions cycle!
     
  12. qwopty99

    qwopty99 Optometrist
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    there is a second level of being "scooped" too that hasn't been described here.

    two labs studying the same area. one lab produces a paper. its sent to a journal, who sends it to a peer-reviewer who happens to be the head of the 2nd lab (this is not absurd at all, because at this level of stratification, there aren't many experts in the world). the reviewer realizes the paper he's reviewing is the exact same study that he's trying to complete in his own lab. so he *stalls* with the review, gets everyone in his lab to work faster, complete the experiment, and send their paper off to another journal. the 2nd lab gets their paper published first, even though the 1st lab actually had their paper submitted earlier.

    i work with a molecular embryologist - he says this happens all the time.
     
  13. OP
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    MPHopeful

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    Who would've guessed that scoopology is so nuanced :D
     
  14. namazu

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    Yeah, I don't doubt that it does happen. To me, this falls more under "unethical" than "scoopulous". Hopefully the head of the first lab will be asked to review the newer, sneaky paper, and can call the authors out on it...

    I'd guess this may be more of a problem in certain experimental disciplines, where there are a lot of "proof of concept" studies (and even if replication is needed, you get lots of credit if you're the first to demonstrate that something works), and also, as Jasmine suggested, where there are large public datasets.

    I'm not sure what the best way is to deal with the problem. In general, I'm a big fan of collaboration. I can accept that some friendly competition may speed up discovery, but I don't like that it also can promote dishonesty and nastiness in some people.

    In some fields, like mathematics and physics, there exists the "ArXiv", which is basically a preprint server organized by discipline. When people submit papers to journals, they often upload a copy of the preprint to ArXiv, which functions to stake some claim to the ideas. It doesn't prevent a person from getting scooped, but it does make it easier to find out whether you have been, and it also helps prevent things like the delay tactic described above, because everyone can see that you got to the idea sooner. I don't know what pressures there are for or against such a thing in public health/medical research disciplines. (Some pressures may even come from journals, which may have clauses preventing the material submitted to the journal from being released anywhere else. Not sure how the agreement works in the disciplines that use ArXiv.)
     
  15. AndrewJ42

    AndrewJ42 Member
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    Yeah I've heard about this tactic a few times....unethical and dirty
     
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  16. qwopty99

    qwopty99 Optometrist
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    yeah - it just sounds sickening.

    but u know - i was thinking. i think the head of the 2nd lab does risk a lot by doing that activity. if he ever got found out, i'm sure the journal would remove him from their list-of-reviewers. and at that level, if u are caught, i think word would spread pretty quickly, since in the specialized fields, the world is a very small place.
     
  17. AndrewJ42

    AndrewJ42 Member
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    Oh yah, especially if he/she submitted it to the same or better journal, the person getting reviewed usually can find out who reviewed the manuscript so if they see that a similar paper was published later on they do have grounds for some academic butt kicking...
     
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  18. qwopty99

    qwopty99 Optometrist
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    >academic butt kicking...


    what happens in this case?
     
  19. AndrewJ42

    AndrewJ42 Member
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    i figure what happens in an "academic butt kicking" is that you gather all the members of the Natl Academy of Science and they each get a turn taking a shot at the perpetrator with a big steel boot....and then the publish in PNAS the scientist's name and picture and call him a "poo-poo head"...sounds about right :D
     
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