As purely entertaining as it is to watch PhysioProf troll the Open Access Nozdrul, these discussions always raise at least six interesting avenues for further thought. For example a comment from bill touches on the notion that private "ownership" of one's ongoing (less than publication quality) data is bad for science. The specific example being that results that may be annoying "noise" to one scientist might be gems to another scientist, if she only was aware of those data. To me, anyway, this links to a more interesting consideration of the back-and-forth between our scientific ideal of collaborative group effort and the reality of personal ownership of "ideas" and "results".
In this area I want to talk about the "ownership" of our scientific effort that might be asserted by NIH Program staff within the individual ICs to be used in ways that act against the interests of individual scientists.
We can start with the specific and applied example of the U01 award mechanism. The U01 Cooperative Agreement mechanism (see here, page 29) is a tricky beast, halfway between the traditional investigator-initiated R01 and the contracts issued by the ICs. The ones I'm familiar with (i.e., noticed and half-considered applying for) were solicited by RFA and contained very comprehensive descriptions of what would be necessary to include to receive the award. Regular RFAs can be specific but these are even more detailed and, again, from the ones I've noticed include quite a LOT of stuff they want done. A part of these that I never fully realized until recently is that Program staff continue to be intimately involved in the conduct of the science under the U01 mechanism. They can tell you to add all kinds of experiments beyond the original proposal just because they think it might be cool. And exploring where the PO got the idea for something to add to the study is where we get into the heart of the matter.
As I think I've said before, one reason to schmooze your PO constantly is because "their" investigators are a primary source for the POs to keep up with the science. They read your papers, read your progress reports and listen to your advocacy of "your" science. The convene little one- or two-day focus meetings back home in Bethesda or on the road as pre-meetings attached to a regular scientific society meeting. And.....they read your grant applications. Even the unfunded ones. The triaged ones...I doubt it but really, who knows? They could be reading them.
All of this information from their stable of funded scientists funnels into the individual PO brain to shape his or her view on what is really cool or exciting or interesting in their fields of interest and responsibility. This information helps them to shape Program Announcements, RFAs....and what requirements to include in a U01 announcement/solicitation. Very likely it helps them to decide what new and SuperKewl experiments to add to an existing and ongoing U01 project. So just suppose, humble R01 supplicant, that some idea that you have included in a R01 proposal (including supporting preliminary data!) really strikes the PO as super neat-o stuff. And he or she just happens to have an ongoing U01 to which a couple of "your" experiments could be readily added in a way that would generate some really informative and interesting data.
What is the proper behavior for the PO in this case?
[As a little sidebar here, if they have official or semi-official rules within the ICs, I don't know about it. They might. Even if they do, the notion of trying to parse "state of mind" from the published and unpublished sources of information they receive is bogglingly difficult.]
In many ways of looking at it, the IC staff are servants of the science itself. They hire us, the members of the extramural research community, to work on science topics that are of interest to them and we are expected to communicate the results to them and the public. (Let us remember as well, that the IC staff function as proxies for our real employers, the US taxpayers.) There is nothing in the extramural funding equation that lets the PI say "Well maybe I'll publish my data and maybe I won't". The overwhelming expectation is that extramural researchers will make the fruits of their effort funded under NIH grants available. Data for sure. One might even extend this to intellectual property such as theories, hypotheses and experimental designs as well. Why not?
Should the PO suggest to their U01 awardee that s/he conduct a study that you have proposed? Should your PO draw some of the kewl ideas from your -01 application, shoehorn it into an RFA they are working on and (oh sorry) fund somebody else to do it while you are struggling through to your -01A2 application?
After all, what matters is that the study be conducted, right? The funding agency has no interest whatsoever in who happens to conduct a particular study. Right?