Inviting Chaos

Jan 27 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

No, this is not an overt attempt to get Prof. Chaos to let us know how things are going in her world of babies and tenure decisions (as far as you know...), but the continuation of an on-going saga for me. Back when I first started the lab and the blog I posted (here and here) about my quest to have some old data sent to me by a PI who never published them and no longer was in a position to complete the work. My initial contact with Frustrating Potential Collaborator was positive, but without warning FPC fell off the map. I tried to re-initiate contact. Oh, I tried. To no avail.

Late last year a friend of FPC told me that FPC was now interested in talking to me about the data gathering dust. At the time I blew that off because I had already duplicated some of the work and didn't feel like another round of get-screwed-by-the-old-gaurd. But we got some data back recently that just screams to be compared to the data gathering dust that we haven't already duplicated, so I had to chose between contacting FPC again or blowing many thousands of dollars and lots of time for the same results. I thought I should try the "easier" route first.

Well, so far so good. I had an email conversation last night with FPC and they have agreed to release the data to me. It's not clear how much they have (it appears to be far more than I had originally suspected), but so far we have the green light. BUT, twice already I have asked about what would be expected when it comes to authorship and involvement in the final product and twice those questions have been ignored. FPC is now retired and appears not to care what we do with the data, but there were students involved in those projects who have gone on to other things and who might like to see those data published. None of the people in question are still in academia, so tracking them down is difficult.

As excited as I am to get the data and start to work with them, there are alarm bells going off in my head that there may be far more strings attached to the data than I can see right now. But if FPC gives us the okay to go forward, what is my responsibility to FPC's former students from more than a decade ago? I will try and pin FPC down in terms of getting their consent, but if that doesn't happen does it blow up the whole thing? I'm not particularly comfortable with going forward without the consent of the other potential authors. I'll have to see how this plays out of FPC's end. I know that one student has been contacted, but I'm not sure about the others. The last thing I want is a bunch of interesting data that are stuck in limbo, but the possibility of getting a bunch of people who have been out of the game for a while involved in the writing or editing makes my head hurt even more.

Best case scenario is that the data are given to us with a list of a couple of people who should be included on the resulting papers, but who want nothing to do with the process. But best case scenario is usually as likely as riding to work on a unicorn.

4 responses so far

  • Natalie says:

    If that one student seems interested, could you ask them to do follow up with some others (ie pass along your contact info)? Thanks to fb and the like, I'm friends with most people I have worked with and could do that easily if asked.

  • Prof-like Substance says:

    There's that chance. I'll try and get FPC to spear-head that, but if it comes down to it I may need to get creative.

  • Anonymous says:

    I don't think you have much of an obligation to FPC's past students, especially if they are out of academia. Why haven't they published anything from the data? There is a section called the acknowledgments. Go forward full speed ahead and add them later if need be.

  • Mad Hatter says:

    Was in a similar situation once as a grad student. We had collaborated with another lab on a project, but by the time we were ready to submit the manuscript, the postdoc in Collaborator's lab had left the lab and was nowhere to be found. Even Collaborator could not find her. In the end, Collaborator told us to take the postdoc's name off the paper since the journal we were submitting to required all authors to sign a consent form. Still not sure if that was the right thing to do....

Leave a Reply