Thursday, January 30, 2014

Let the politics begin !

Today a colleague (lets call hir YY) of mine came to my office. This person is very senior and has had many successful grants and students.

I told hir that I have discussed some of my idea with another colleague (lets call hir XX). This is what YY said to me:

"you do not want to discuss your ideas. If you have some one senior come to you, just tell them that you are if they have an idea you will be happy to work with them. You will get your ideas and money stolen especially with XX".

There are few senairos that arose in my mind:

1) YY wants to work with me (this was mentioned in our conversation) and wants to keep me for hirself.
2) XX is as is described. There is some evidance to it since XX has not worked with any one in a substantial way
3) I cant think of the third. May you can :P

 So I have these questions from the blogosphere:

1) How often does your ideas get stolen in academia? Not scooped as in when you are in competition and want to out do each other. But stolen !
2) How often you had problems with a senior collegue for using funds i.e. you were junior but a PI and the senior was a co-PI. Do you happen to have problems such as the senior trying to use your money etc.
3) How do you know who to trust. There can be a lot of overlap between expertise but you do want some on who you could trust right. How do you decide who to discuss your ideas with?

I often heard in my pre-academia-existance that academia is very political. I am coming to taste it now. Hopefully it will be fun.

4 comments:

  1. Dr. Noncoding ArenayJanuary 31, 2014 at 10:39 AM

    I would think that the best/safest colleagues to discuss ideas with are the ones who are at your level (fresh junior prof) but with a different focus yet with some overlap with what you are doing. Maybe even in a different department. The next best would probably be the very old profs who you know are on their way out or slowing down their scientific enterprise. They are a treasure trove of knowledge and experience without posing a threat for scooping/stealing.

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    1. Thats actually a very good idea. So much for collaborative science !

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  2. 1) How often does your ideas get stolen in academia? Not scooped as in when you are in competition and want to out do each other. But stolen !

    I don't know in experimental sciences, I suppose if someone has a similar lab running and an army of postdocs they could outpace you... My attitude is -- hey, there's more where that's coming from. You lose an idea, but gain insight on who sucks, and you will get otehr ideas. But to answer your question, as I work with experimentalists and I am a theorist, nobody has actually stolen my idea cause they would not be able to execute it...

    2) How often you had problems with a senior collegue for using funds i.e. you were junior but a PI and the senior was a co-PI. Do you happen to have problems such as the senior trying to use your money etc.

    This is very, very common. It's actually more common than not. People don't want to steal, but have very fluid views of what belongs to them. I recommend if you get the money get two subaccounts on the grant, divide the money right away and then each one has his/her own pot. Much less squabble that way. However, there may be issues over who gets how much money in the pot... The point is be prepared for money trouble. That doesn't mean collaborator is evil, just that you are both human.

    3) How do you know who to trust. There can be a lot of overlap between expertise but you do want some on who you could trust right. How do you decide who to discuss your ideas with?

    You cannot trust anyone 100%. People are not mean, they are self-serving, and it will never be that yours and someone else's agendas align 100% of the time. So trust people, sort of, just don't be surprised when they disappoint to a smaller or greater degree.
    There are people who won't steal your ideas, but might be "flexible" with the joint money or too territorial about advising students

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    1. Thank you for the input. This really helps. Especially the idea of getting two sub accounts on the grant is what I am going to be doing If I get monies that is.

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