Boston Blog

How to deal with being scooped

A scientist’s worst nightmare: being scooped. An article posted last week on Naturejobs gives some tips on what to do when your competitors beat you to the punch in publishing results. Several young scientists tell their stories of their devastation when they found out the bad news, what they did to cope and move on, and most importantly, what to do to keep from being scooped in the first place.

Suggested tactics include: working more and faster (ie working weekends), being in a well connected lab (so you know what is going on in other labs), and finding trustworthy collaborators (why try to beat them when you can work with them?), and just finding a niche to avoid head-on competition altogether. One interesting suggestion was for a student to take on two projects: one that has a high “scoop” risk and one that’s lower on that risk scale. I’m not sure how effective, realistic or even desirable some of these approaches are. With science, especially biology, being so competitive, the risk of being scooped is always there. Is it something that scientists just have to get used to without staying awake too many nights? What do you do to minimize your risk?

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