Sunday, December 18, 2005

Don't Check Email On Weekends!

Ugh, I broke my own rule today. I checked my email. I've been trying not to, since work-related emails generally piss me off.

Today I got a reply to an email I probably shouldn't have bothered sending.

A while back, someone requested one of my published reagents. Long story short, I had to scrounge some stuff together that I wasn't 100% sure would work, because it was old and I hadn't used it recently, and really didn't have time to make more for them, yada yada. I sent it with lots of apologies and disclaimers. They were kind of in a rush to get a paper out.

I was excited at the possibility of getting my paper cited, and helping someone out. I figured, it's always good if someone else can use your reagent and validate it. And I knew the reagent was good when I last used it. Very good.

Well of course I never heard from them, so I assumed it didn't work, but I was annoyed that they didn't let me know, so I emailed them to find out. This has happened to me before. People assume the stuff I do is trivial, so when it doesn't work immediately for them, they never ask me for help or consider that they might be doing something wrong!

In this case, it didn't work. It's clear from the email, since I asked, that they didn't understand what they were doing. And of course, they never asked me about it, or even let me know- I wouldn't have known until the paper came out!

Turns out they ended up getting a similar (probably more recently used) reagent from one of my "competitors" (whose reagent hasn't been published, btw).

Nice! Always better to go with the unpublished reagent.... right? NOT.

So now I'm pissed off. They were nice enough about it, but this won't do anything good for my reputation. And since I'm working on my grant update, it's not doing anything for my confidence.

Oh and let me say something about this "competitor". This is someone I had met when I was a grad student, and he was pretty nice at the time- when we were working on totally different things. Later, I asked if he wanted to collaborate, long before I had even started this project, because I had heard he was interested in doing something similar. He flatly refused to even tell me he was working on the same thing, which I knew because I had been told he presented it when he gave his job talks. Did he think it was some kind of secret, or for that matter, a unique idea?

What an asshole.

Ironically enough, I ended up publishing my stuff, and I think he still hasn't published anything. Small comfort since I'm sure his will be a Much Higher Impact Paper when it does come out, because he's got the sort of connections to ensure enough Big Names will be on his paper. And I'm sure people will enthusiastically cite it for that reason, while mine languishes in the One Hit Wonder section of the library.

Ugh. Bad enough to think about this stuff during the week, but I really could have done without it today.


At 9:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geez woman, do you ever stop complaining. Its always that you are perfect and everyone is out to get you.

At 5:23 AM, Blogger Abel PharmBoy said...

Did you have the collaborator endorse an MTA before sending out your reagent?

I used to think that these forms were useless bullcrap that only created paperwork for administrators to justify their existence.

After being burned similarly, I now find MTAs and collaborative research agreements to have protected me (and the efforts of my lab team) from misuse or misrepresentation of stuff we generated.

If your institution has a good tech transfer office, it pays to become friends with someone there.

At 3:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL to the first anonymous poster..

got to agree with you - although I'd remove the "woman" part... it has nothing to do with being a woman, and more to do with the person she is.

Ms.PhD definitely has a paranoid streak :)...

graduate school and a postdoc will do that to you.

although, I think Ms.PhD takes the "me vs the world" perspective too often. I wish she would self-reflect rather than blame everything on everyone else.

At 4:39 PM, Blogger BotanicalGirl said...

For the anonymous commenters: if you don't like it, don't read it. Seems silly to complain about a medium in which you yourself do not participate.

Negative? Yes. Realistic? Yes. Maybe it's frame of mind, but I never read Ms.PhD and think 'oh, world's smallest violin'.


Communication is terrible in science. Trying to explain a procedure via email is worse. I think your collabs gave up too easily.

At 2:36 AM, Blogger Dr J. said...

Just to follow up on abel pharmboy´s comment. MTA´s are worth their weight in gold. Those and collaboration agreements, and consortium agreements. I´ve been burned in situations where we´ve had none of them and then not a legal leg to stand on. Read: my discovery patented out from under me and another published without me.

Usually the tech transfer office of your institution will look over them for you and I recommend they do.
I read through a MTA last week between an academic and a company and hidden in the middle in legalese was basically "ANYTHING this scientist does from now on belongs to the company".

So if you are going to sign them, check them or have someone else check them.

But (to repeat myself) they can turn out to be horribly important. And compared to the number of papers we read (or should read) every week, reading through a 2 page MTA is not that big a deal, and scientists should be literate enough to handle it.

At 11:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This section is for comments.

just because you don't like our comments doesn't mean they are wrong *or* right. They are just opinions.

and yes, we enjoy reading Ms.PhD. I support her, think she is a good person, but that doesn't mean she is perfect either... none of us are.

thanks again for this interesting

At 6:44 PM, Blogger NeuroChick said...

It amazes me that someone would ask you to send them some of your reagent, and then not even keep you up to speed as to whether it worked or not. And then when it didn't work how they expected it to, that they didn't contact you to make sure they were using it correctly.

I'm sort of anticipating encountering similar situations in the next couple of years. Earlier this year we published a new method/model that I know at least a couple of groups are interested in using. In fact, my PI sent info on the model to one PI before we had even published it, who gave it to someone to try to use in their lab. I was at a meeting presenting a poster where I was introducing the model for the first time, and this person came up to me and said point blank "We tried your model and it didn't work." So I nicely went through the method with her to find out what she was doing. Um, there were like 10 things she was doing differently from what I was doing! Geez, don't scare the living daylights out of me saying the thing I'm basing my entire dissertation on doesn't work, when you're not even doing it properly! I gave her the benefit of the doubt though since it hadn't been published at that point, but now that it has I won't look so kindly on people telling me my work is bogus when they're not even doing it right.


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