Wednesday, December 21, 2005

My competitive field, or MTA issues

Thanks for all the support, those of you who signed your names.

Re: MTAs on a previous post, I'm not sure how an MTA would have helped me there. I have no problem with them using my reagent, since it's published. That is why I'm in academia- I'm more interested in the progress than the fame. And there's no money involved. I won't talk about it here, but I don't believe in patenting, to be honest. Not in science. Besides, they have given me reagents in the past, too. And they were in a rush. I would have had to make the decision to impede their research- or force them to go to someone else- by choosing to do an MTA.

I have no problem with them using someone else's reagent to do the same thing. Maybe mine really wouldn't work for their application. I just don't particularly like that competitor, but whatever. I can't stop this person from working in my field, and I'm not sure I even need to worry about it. It's just a knee-jerk paranoia.

re: competition in my field, YES. I was looking on Google images the other day to see if it had crawled my thesis advisor's page and some of his really nice figures (it hadn't). But I found one from the competitor I've been talking about, and it had a picture of one of his students, and under it said "Member of the (name) Army."

Boy, talk about the Art of War!

Lately I'm thinking I'm actually in a good position. Right now most people in my field think I'm absolutely crazy, and they don't believe my published story. (Although I do have some supporters, and I'm not worried about them scooping me).

So I can probably work on the next chapter of the mystery in relative peace and quiet, since I don't think anyone is going to touch it with a ten-foot pole. I'm hoping that will actually give me an advantage: time to figure out what is going on. I think it's a hard enough problem that nobody's going to solve it overnight, even if I'm totally wrong about what's going on!

I hope I'm not totally wrong.

Anyway, re: the MTA issue, what pissed me off was their complete lack of communication on the issue, and my not knowing what they're going to say to other people about my reagent, and therefore, my science. And my lack of options to do anything about it besides trying to send them an email to clarify that I stand by my published observations, which they reproduced but don't believe. Aside: I assume this is because they haven't done all the right controls, or haven't seen all of mine (some of which didn't make it into the paper... which also still pisses me off).

I think the point I'm taking from this is that if those people ask me for a reagent again, I should make them do an MTA. Can I put a clause in there that they have to tell me if it doesn't work, or that they have to use my protocol?? I'm guessing that wouldn't be a common request, but what do I know? Maybe it's common to insist that if it doesn't work, the user isn't allowed to tell anyone else??? Is that what these things are for?? That's a frightening thought.


Anyway I'm just tired of people choosing to read what they want into my posts.

I am definitely not the sort of person who goes around saying how perfect I am and how stupid everybody else is.

Just because I get mad at somebody for doing something stupid doesn't mean I think they're all-around idiots.
I just think they did something stupid on that particular day. Everybody does that. Even me!

Perhaps it was stupid of me to think everyone who reads my blog would understand that.

Similarly, I think people who hate research but stay in it for the wrong reasons are making a bad decision, but they might be perfectly intelligent, nice people.

Or, like someone who shall remain Anonymous, they might not.


At 6:13 PM, Blogger Abel PharmBoy said...

Hey YFS, you're totally cool in my book and very wise to be balanced in what I view is justified paranoia in what sounds like a highly-competitive field and being fed-up with the behavior in a business that is, after all, supposed to help people (I assume that your work translates somehow to a human disease). If I ever disagree with your thoughts, the disagreement will be with your thoughts and not your person, and I will have the spine to sign my name.

Our business is so full of anonymous criticism (ms reviews, grant reviews, etc.) that one would hope that one's blog would be a place where you could vent and get constructive feedback.

MTA issues: you can put anything in there you want, but it's up to the other org's tech transfer folks to agree to it. MTAs are not necessarily always for patentable materials - we use them for any plasmids and even public domain compounds to make sure that we get credit for the contribution(s) and that some sort of report gets filed back with us within 12 months. We also insist whether we will be co-authors or just acknowledged in the ms. Our MTAs rarely deal with patent issues; we save that for collaborative research agreements. MTAs merely state that you will use my reagent at your own risk and you will give me the credit I expect when you get positive results with it.

Yes, your anon naysayers will say that it was up to you to stay in touch with the jerks, but an MTA puts the onus on them. If they had trouble with your reagent, they would've at least been required to run by you the conditions under which it didn't work and the option to get another aliquot that you had quality-tested in with greater rigor.

I doubt that anything would've stopped them from going to a competitor, but I'd suggest going to have a debrief with your local tech transfer person to find out what you could've done differently to protect yourself.

Communication, or miscommunication, is at the heart of many issues like yours. Yes, some 'collaborators' are cold-hearted selfish bastards out to suck you for everything you're worth, but some just simply didn't learn people skills in elementary school. Add to that NIH paylines that are 10-12 percentile lower than two years ago and you've got the perfect combination for self-preservation at all costs.

At 8:38 PM, Blogger Doctor Free-Ride, Ph.D. said...

I agree with abel pharmboy that it would have been better (in so many ways) if the folks who requested your reagent had kept in touch. Communication requires multiple active participants. And, no call can communicate something, too (like, no problems at all).

Also, I find the tone of your blog perfectly appropriate for your line of work and your career stage. If it were to go all balloons and puffy little clouds and kitties (in tone, not content), I'd be worried for your health and/or sanity.

Shorter version: Don't change a thing!

At 9:41 AM, Blogger Junniper said...

Whew--I haven't visited in a while!

I just wanted to wish you a happy holiday!

At 10:43 AM, Anonymous Kate said...

Dear Ms. Postdoc, I just wanted to tell you that your blog gives me a sense of feeling that I am not alone in my suffering. For that I thank you and wish you a happy Christmas!

At 3:44 PM, Blogger Fab adventures of Carlysle Tancha said...

"Maybe it's common to insist that if it doesn't work, the user isn't allowed to tell anyone else??? Is that what these things are for?? That's a frightening thought."

Hey, it is frightening and this is what happens on a daily basis. For some reason, we continue to market the good things and play down the bad things--or "forget" to mention them at all. A reagent doesn't work: it is a 'negative' result, people don't say anything; we keep reinventing the same wheel. I don't think that this is going to change. Do we really think that impact factors are going to spike when negative data or something that doesn't work gets published? That's marketing...


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