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I am an RA in a lab, but want to do a study with a dataset not in my lab

Dirkwww

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Apr 15, 2012
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  1. Psychology Student
So i am an RA in a lab, but i have 2 or 3 ideas for studies that involve datasets not in my lab. Is it weird or inappropriate to email other professors in labs and ask to work with their data or do a study in their field?

thanks
 

mxbz

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Aug 26, 2011
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I don't think so. When I was an RA, I was working in 3 labs (one I was paid to work in, the other was where I was writing my UG thesis, and third was my practica site), and I used data from all three labs for different presentations. You might want to discuss it with your PI just to ensure that he or she doesn't have an issue with you doing research in various labs.
 

Ollie123

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They may or may not be willing to release their data to you depending on what their plans are for it (and yours for that matter). I don't think its "weird" to contact other professors expressing an interest in their work, but its very weird (and bordering on rude) to expect them to hand you data that likely required significant effort to collect. However, asking them to say, mentor your honor's thesis and work with you on a new project is quite normal. I'd talk to your current PI and see if they are encouraging (they may even put in a good word for you!).

Fair warning that they will likely expect you to work in their lab as an RA as well. Especially if you are an undergrad, working with data you are not familiar with will likely entail a significant time investment on their part, so they are likely to expect something in return (i.e. help with ongoing projects). Some labs do not allow anyone to publish off the data if they weren't involved in data collection. I think that is a step too far (and raises questions about scientific ethics and data release) but I can understand why a faculty member might not want to hand over data randomly to an undergraduate they don't know! There's nothing wrong with working in multiple labs as an undergrad - many folks do. So that may be the best option.
 
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Doctor Eliza

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Jul 31, 2010
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So i am an RA in a lab, but i have 2 or 3 ideas for studies that involve datasets not in my lab. Is it weird or inappropriate to email other professors in labs and ask to work with their data or do a study in their field?

thanks

You'll probably have to exchange time doing grunt work for access to data. Do you have time to do that?

Dr. E
 

gradp

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Jan 4, 2013
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I agree with most of the above replies. First, if you're not somehow involved in their lab, how do you know the details of the type of data they collect, how everything is coded, and what everything means? Secondly, in my opinion, yes it is very weird to email a PI that you have no connections to and ask for their data. Even between PI's working together, people are generally very protective of their data and need special permission for undergrads to even handle the data, not to mention analyze.

The best thing may be to bring it up to your current PI and maybe she/he can ask the other PI if you can use their data. This has happened multiple times in my lab, and it has always worked out for the student. If you are interning at multiple labs, then that's a different story.
 

mxbz

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My previous post was made under the assumption that you were looking to work in the other labs and in turn use their data. Yes, asking to use a PI's data without any affiliation with their lab is inappropriate.
 
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