It’s quite natural to be taken aback if a research scholar goes on bringing viewership on her current research by promotion, without realizing that some of her contemporaries have already started moving ahead from the same idea. To some, ideas are not in limited supply and should therefore the promotion part of it be not rationed. But chinwagging on ‘co-PI is stealing my preliminary data for funding proposal’ is something that a lot of new faces in the academia can relate to very well. Stories about authorship positioning for a journal article, getting acknowledgement or getting authorship, not getting copyright protection for one graph because of the name only mentioned in the acknowledgement…and so on, you might probably hear or read from time to time. To stay away from this griping and whining, you might focus on something positive such as ‘ethical conduct’, ‘professional obligation’, ‘confidential idea’ etc.
Well, nothing is true and everything is true, between these two extremes, we should find some common ground and analyze if research promotion is a good approach or a bad approach.
If you have an area of expertise, you will always bring your thoughts into doing some research and you will let others know that you made the discovery. This is very simple. Now, let’s say, in the same discipline, three other scholars are working on similar ideas, very close to the last discovery you made. You are now attending conferences, writing blogs, giving lectures on the last research and by doing so; you are basically promoting your research. In the meantime, one of the three scholars published a research article citing your name by visiting a conference that you attended nine months ago. Are you worried now? Somebody already got hold of your idea and even worse, published a journal article on it. Does that mean you made a mistake by promoting your research? Let’s take this scenario: the other scholar did not make any citation from your research because your original article that time was under review mode by the publication outlet you sent the manuscript to and there were no other sources that indicate that any such research was carried out before. Let’s go deeper and make it more complicated. Considering that you are an assistant professor in a university, you are hiring the other scholar who happens to be joining your research group as a post-doctoral researcher. Again, in this case too, because of your research promotion, the post-doctoral researcher came to know about your interest. It could have gone complete opposite too. Inspired by your last research from the promotion you made, that researcher could have written a proposal for funding from a different institution and you are on the verge of struggling to secure a funding. Does that mean you should not have started working on that research unless you have a bigger funding in place? Stealing idea is very derogatory thought in its own term. Research promotion becomes so vital however, if there’s any feeling of someone might be working on the same idea without acknowledging yours.
To aggravate this situation, let’s talk about interdisciplinary studies, where more than one person is involved for the overall discovery and there comes the idea of who takes credit in which proportion. We will discuss more on it in another article.