Ethics in publishing: the recurring case of the dishonest collaborator
So this is one of those quandaries, it came up twice this week and I thought I would just ask the blogosphere because I'm not sure how best to advise.
I have more than one friend in the same situation: powerful collaborator has repeatedly finagled scoopings by other collaborators.
So here's the scenario:
Junior prof or postdoc working with Big Famous D00d on somewhat controversial project.
Big Famous D00d is also working with other people on competing projects (other side of the controversy, or tangential with some overlap).
Junior person has to get approval from D00d to send the manuscript out, or at least let him know that it's being submitted.
D00d pulls some kind of shenanigans, either suggesting back-to-back publications, or otherwise delaying, or pulling strings behind the scenes (like notifying the other team). Regardless of the method, in the end he is going out of his way to make sure the other team's paper gets submitted ASAP.
What do you do, as the junior person in this scenario?
a) Suck it up and get scooped one last time, then cut off the collaboration (inevitably wrecking all chances of getting any funding ever again, inevitably leading to the end of your career)?
b) Suck it up and pretend like you don't care, inevitably leading to a serious drinking problem?
c) Pick a fight with Dood, with a lawyer, and quit science because you'll be spending the rest of your life in court?
d) Quit science and then publish whatever you have left on your own in Questionable Journal(s), sit quietly and wait to see what happens?
e) Any other possible scenarios you can think of?
Keep in mind, most people I know of who have been in similar situations went with (a) or (b). While (a) might seem noble, it sounds a bit like shooting yourself in the foot, to me. This is how we lose a lot of great people.
The only other way to go, I'm thinking, is to try to persuade Big D00d to put you on top, and let the other guy get scooped instead. This may require enormous amounts of money spent on alcohol, sexual favors, etc. and my friends are not the kind of people who want to do that. They're just frustrated and appalled, even though we all know this goes on regularly in business and science.
Maybe the business types can advise? I feel like this is the kind of situation a Michael J. Fox or Will Smith or Melanie Griffith might be able to charm their way out of.
I'm more of a Meg Ryan myself, as regular blog readers already know. Except that the D00d in science is never the one who writes great emails and brings you flowers when you're sick.