Ass Sniffers

Jan 06 2009 Published by under Conduct of Science

As a tangent to an interesting discussion at Dr. Jekyll & Mrs. Hyde's place concerning peer review conflicts of interests, Comrade PhysioProf raised the issue of chronic ass-sniffers:

People definitely will, if merited, gain the reputation of being an "ass sniffer" (so-called because they are always running around with their noses shoved up everyone else's asses stealing ideas) if they are perceived as scurrying around a subfield watching what everyone else is doing--at conferences, seminars, and via their access to unpublished information through peer review of grants and manuscripts--and always rushing in at the last minute with a contemporaneous "me too" manuscript that always seems to be less well-done, more superficial, and less comprehensive than those of the other lab groups.


Someone in one of the subfields we operate in is known for this. I was asked by an editor to review a very nice comprehensive manuscript in this subfield, and then after the review was completed and the authors were giving the opportunity to make major revisions and resubmit, the editor sent me a me-too manuscript that had just been submitted by our known ass-sniffer.
This paper was a grossly superficial poorly controlled rushed-out piece of me-too garbage, relative to the excellent manuscript that I had just reviewed. While you cannot accuse someone of literally copying the ideas of another lab without proof, I made it clear to the editor that the me-too manscript was not a useful additional contribution to the field. I think it is important for editors to do what they can to eliminate the incentive for ass-sniffing, and I think it is my duty as a reviewer to make clear the difference between work that originates an idea and develops convincing evidence for it, and me-too work that just rides its coattails. It is usually relatively easy to distinguish this kind of situation from a genuinely contemporaneous independent development of an idea, which is of course fine and should lead to simulataneous publication.

47 responses so far

  • jc says:

    I personally don't have much in the way of ass-sniffers to deal with, but holy fucknoly, TAIL-CHASERS are common (which goes beyond the 'me-too' ass sniffing). PP said over at Jekyll "It's the intentional imposition of delay in order to permit the review to rush out a submission of her own." YES YES YES YES YES. As editor, I've had a bunch of reviewers stall and stall and stall - the electronic system prompts the reviewers about deadlines every week. Once the 3rd prompt gets ignored, I typically let the author know that a reviewer is holding up the show and immediately get started on asking another reviewer. And if the reviewer ever does turn in a really late review, it's usually an eye-opener. Some editors do have a clue, others couldn't be bothered or haven't learned how to effectively deal with the problem. I personally flag or delete the tail chaser from my internal reviewer list and I will not accept manuscripts from tail chasers I've had problems with.
    I've had this TAIL CHASING happen to me as an author. I contacted an editor about my paper that she just couldn't get a problematic reviewer to turn in the review - after 9 months of her inability to handle it, I withdrew the paper and turned it around that week for submission (and acceptance) elsewhere. Turned out one of the reviewers was indeed running around like a banshee trying to scoop me.

  • Hahaha - you know you're going to get a lot more hits from people looking for porn with a title like that!

  • I personally flag or delete the tail chaser from my internal reviewer list and I will not accept manuscripts from tail chasers I've had problems with.

    That is very interesting. So, even if the tail chaser submits a manuscript that looks very good, and you have no reason to suspect that particular manuscript as resulting from a tail chase, you will still decline to send the manuscript out for peer review?

  • jc says:

    "you will still decline to send the manuscript out for peer review?"
    YUP. just based on past behavior, which for me is two episodes of tail chasing. The editor-in-chief can override me and decide to handle the paper himself.

  • "you will still decline to send the manuscript out for peer review?"
    YUP. just based on past behavior, which for me is two episodes of tail chasing. The editor-in-chief can override me and decide to handle the paper himself.

    Kudos to you! This kind of shit really hampers scientific progress by making scientists afraid to present their work at meetings or otherwise share information about what they are doing prior to publication.

  • jc says:

    yeah, conference proceedings which can take a long time (years!) to get reviewed and published are a bad idea for presenting ongoing work. I present accepted/published stuff at meetings because it's just too easy to scoop me - it's a shame.
    Most of the journals I deal with have internal ranking systems of reviewers that editors fill out upon receipt of the review. If a reviewer is fast with turnaround, they can get an 'excellent' rating for speed. If the reason they are so fast is that their review says "great paper... accept!", then they get a lower rating for quality of review. If it's a thoughtful critical review which took 3 weeks, then they get 'excellent' from me. There's also comment boxes which editors can put down their horror stories for particular reviewers.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    Just another facet of scientific misconduct. Though I understand that it would be problematic to name an ass-sniffer without proof, I hope that more editors will follow JC's example and eliminate tail-chasing reviewers from their lists. In this time and age there is no reason for a reviewer to delay his/her review beyond the alloted time given to him/her (2-3 weeks, depends on the journal). As a reviewer, I rarely require longer time to complete the review, nevertheless, when that happened, I notify the editor of the delay and ask him/her if that's alright.
    As I have mentioned in the past on this blog, as a reviewer I more than once discovered plagiarism in manuscripts sent to me for review. I always notify the editor of such findings and request further action against the fraudster. I also mentioned here in the past a specific case of an investigator at Washington University in St. Louis, who was caught ass-sniffing manuscripts and, especially, NIH grant proposals he reviewed. The Wash. U's committee that investigated the case found enough evidence to force the asshole to retract several papers from high IF journls, notified the NIH's ORI, which investigated the case, but took no action, and managed to force the university to dismiss the asshole. Ironically, he was hired and given an endowed chair by a previous chairman of his at Wash. U., in another university. His name is Douglas C. Dean. You can see his work and network here:
    http://www.biomedexperts.com/Profile.bme/305047/Douglas_C_Dean

  • Dave says:

    Yow. Kudos to Sol for naming names. There should be some sort of web page for scientific dirty laundry where people can anonymously dish the inside scoop on bad behavior.
    Maybe something like 'Rate my Professor' but 'Rate my Colleague'.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    ..and you don't see any potential pitfalls with such a thing, Dave?

  • anon says:

    What about grant applications which seem to take or substantially use other peoples ideas?
    For example, lets suppose someone is putting in for a substantial and highly prestigious award for new investigators which is for innovative research. They ask a colleague about a specific application for a relatively new technique(mentioning the context in which they plan to use it), who directs them to another colleague , who just happens to be your collaborator on a piece of research you are undertaking which is extremely similar to that being proposed. Now, you have presented your rationale and hypotheses and preliminary results on posters at one national conference in the last 6 months, but have not yet submitted the paper. Now this problem pops up. It seems very unlikely that should the investigator submit her proposal, the grant reviewers would have seen the poster with its extremely similar approach. What to do?

  • Dave says:

    @DM: Well, yea, of course I see pitfalls. But I'd love to see what happens with such a thing. Maybe there could be a space where the accused could get a 200 word defense in response to each thing. The whole case could be argued out online just like a PLoS One paper.
    @anon: I once had a paper in at Cell Press full of data I also had in a grant proposal but which had never been published or even presented at a meeting. The paper got great reviews, so great we assumed it was in and so did everyone who read the reviews. We were taking our time because we knew of no competition. But then all of a sudden the editors got all weird and I heard through the grapevine that a competing paper had just been submitted -- by one of the members of the NIH panel that reviewed my grant. Worst mistake was one of the authors describing to an ex-grad student of mine at a meeting a couple weeks later all the data in our grant proposal. Now, papers come and go, but what pisses me off most is that the major criticism of that proposal, which was not funded, was that "most of the proposed experiments appear to already be completed." Well, no shit. We had to (unknowingly) complete the reviewer's paper before they could be satisfied!

  • DrugMonkey says:

    that last go-round with PLoS ONE was unsatisfying for this purpose. we had a salvo of "you suck because we published first"
    followed by a semi-veiled "you cheezeballs quashed our paper and scooped us based on seeing our conference presentation"
    reply: "nuh-uh, we di'int"
    why do I think the majority of Rate-Your-ScoopAss-ColleagueDOTCOM is going to go the same way?
    I'd like to see light shone on the cock-a-roaches too but accusation and counter seems far less useful than if people with some actual knowledge (hello, professional GlamourEditors!) sack up and pull their heads out on these issues... They know who was sent what to review. They know the oh-so-mysterious submission back history (one of the aforementioned editors of SubGlamour mag, now upjumped, tried a previous dodge about how the published submission date didn't reflect the original submission). They know what was said in cover letters and phone calls by the PIs trying to work them. The are consequently the ones that need to add 2 plus 2 to deduce unethical behavior. Reviewers and colleagues have only the vaguest suspicions in comparison.

  • I'd like to see light shone on the cock-a-roaches too but accusation and counter seems far less useful than if people with some actual knowledge (hello, professional GlamourEditors!) sack up and pull their heads out on these issues.
    This is why I was impressed with jc's approach, which--to be honest--can sometimes work against the immediate interests of her journal to publish the HAWTEST SCIENZ!!11!!!1!!!11
    I should add, however, that over a period of time in a field/subfield, colleagues really do develop a very good sense for who is an ass-sniffing me-too asshole, based on a consistent pattern of being in on the tail-end of multiple distinct advances and always with the thinnest body of supporting results.

  • Lou says:

    DM, that is exactly why I sometimes REALLY wonder what these professional editors are getting paid for. If they are au fait with a scientific journal's reviewing process, as professionals they should be aware of such problems. And if they aren't....well, they should notice these things, because they are getting paid to.

  • jc says:

    Yes, I've gone a few rounds with the editor general and other assoc editors about 'hawtest sciencz.' Controversy drives up impact factor, but when you have controversy based on assholery versus based on hawt sciencz, it doesn't shed a good light on the journal if it does turn out to be assholery (especially if there's a pattern!). When squinting to see the hawtness through the assholery, sometimes it's better to pass.

  • anon says:

    I am very serious in my question on what to do. The situation I described generally above, is real and in progress. My hope is that the reviewers of the grant application might realise there are some competing interests here, but there are no guarantees of this. Nor is it possible to put in a competing proposal as the competition is only available to those with permanent jobs (how suck is that?). However, the grant proposal deadline has about a month to run, and decisions will not made for several months, so we have a window of opportunity to be as proactive as possible in ensuring those who deserve it get the credit for the ideas.

  • However, the grant proposal deadline has about a month to run, and decisions will not made for several months, so we have a window of opportunity to be as proactive as possible in ensuring those who deserve it get the credit for the ideas.

    Publish what you got ASAP. PLoS ONE might be a good place to go if you want very fast turn-around. (Disclosure: Comrade PhysioProf has a professional--but not financial--relationship with PLoS ONE.)

  • DrugMonkey says:

    anon, I'm not understanding what you think is the problem. From what I can tell
    1) you have been presenting your ideas and prelim data at conferences.
    2) somebody else has prepared a grant with similar ideas.
    Pending additional details, this sounds like the ol' failure to appreciate that ideas are a dime a dozen and what counts is who can execute. as PP notes, the only solution is to publish first.

  • jc says:

    anon, get crackin. chop chop. PLOS ONE is a good choice for fast handling. and make a list of suggested reviewers and suggested conflicts for the editor.

  • Dave says:

    Do you guys really not know why GlamourMag editors are so cluelessly biased? Take a look at the histories of these people and how those journals fill their editorial ranks. Here's a summary/timeline:
    1) Schmoozy young postdoc (SYP) joins Big Name lab, but over several years demonstrates an inability to make decent independent contributions to science. Maybe gets to write a couple reviews or something. Is maybe second or third author on a few papers. But has no hope of being a PI. Still, SYP really likes going to meetings and feeling important.
    2) SYP's fellowship runs out. Big Name supports SYP's application for GlamourMag editorial position.
    3) SYP, really a failed clueless scientist, is hired as editor based on recommendation of Big Name. SYP gets to continue going to meetings and feeling important. Awesome!
    4) SYP's old boss and postdoc buddies send SYP all their papers. SYP loves his friends.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    PP and jc, anon is really focused on the grant and the grant reviewers. apparently this is not about publishing priority...? is this person suggesting that reviewers should quash a proposal because someone else has presented a poster with the same ideas? is this specific to the "innovative" mechanism?

  • FYI on PLoS ONE: Search the list of academic editors to see if there is one or more who are expert enough in the subject matter of your work that they would be suitable reviewers of your manuscript. Select them as suggested academic editors (if you can do this; I'm not sure) or at least as suggested reviewers, and make sure that the key words and concepts you select for your manuscript will encompass the expertise of those academic editors. If you do this, there is a very good chance that the academic editor assigned to your manuscript will make a decision without soliciting external reviews.
    Where PLoS ONE bogs down is when an academic editor considers it necessary to solicit external reviews, at which point it becomes no faster--and perhaps slower--than traditionally edited journals.

  • jc says:

    DM, i think it's a matter of establishing the novelty of anon's idea because of the "similarity" of the approach by the other lab. so, what I think anon can do is quick publish the prelim data that anon already has as support for the grant proposal and to pre-empt whatever the other lab might run with either with papers or their own proposal. correct me if I'm wrong on that anon.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    see, now the way you do it Dave is just mindlessly insulting. and consequently serves little purpose in advancing any sort of positive discussion. i'm getting tired of the schtick, I'll note as fair warning.
    much better would be to delve into the actual and relevant questions about why the professional editor class might behave the way they do.
    such as observing that training only up to the PhD in a GlamourMag publishing lab leaves one relatively under exposed to the breadth of science.
    it would also be helpful if you had some understanding of the process and could tell us whether professional editors follow COI rules vis a vis their previous mentors and collaborators?

  • anon says:

    At this stage it is about funding, not simultaneous publishing. Nor am I totally sure whether it is just that horrible simultaneous thing going on, or not. So, yes, chop chop is great advice.
    To expand slightly: Unfortunately, we share the same basic rationale, same basic hypotheses, same methodological approach, and same kind of organism, except ours is the common garden species and they are proposing to work with a rare species (= extra pinup points in this context). There is one other difference. So I don't really know quite what to make of it. I think my collaborator would like to discuss our work with them in the hope that they might perhaps collaborate on the proposed work. It doesn't seem especially likely to me though given past experience of them.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    well, jc, it is hard to make the call without additional specifics. however, it is clear from the comments above that anon is focused on the minds of the grant reviewers rather than the usual publishing priority.
    from #16:
    we have a window of opportunity to be as proactive as possible in ensuring those who deserve it get the credit for the ideas.
    the use of "deserve" is telling. now it may be the case that anon has additional evidence that someone stole his or her ideas by illicit methods. but if anon presented them at a meeting, sorry, all bets are off.
    I pound away at this point because there really are greenhorn trainees around that are under misconceptions about the uniquity of "ideas" and the notion that just because you enunciate an idea it is forevermore your exclusive property. For better or for worse the way it works in science is the one who publishes gets the credit.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    At this stage it is about funding
    right but it sounds like you are not currently in a grant writing position. so what is it that you expect to happen here?
    That the competitor should be blocked from getting an "innovator" type award because you clearly have the same idea? First that's a pretty negative way to think about the progression of science and second, it might still be innovative if nobody's been funded to do it yet.
    Look I know it is the suxxors to see someone else get the award you think you should have obtained. but get used to it because this is going to happen in large and small ways for the duration of your career. that's the gig.

  • jc says:

    anon, race em baby, race em! submit the paper that establishes the novelty.

  • jc says:

    dm, actually i think it's about credit AND funding. i do see where you are going with this though.

  • but if anon presented them at a meeting, sorry, all bets are off.

    Dude, this is not true. It may be the case that it is not SCIENTIFIC MISCONDUCT!!!!!!1!1!!!!111ELEVENTY!11!! to crawl up someone's ass after you hear them give a presentation at a meeting and you happen to like what you hear. But it is *sleazy*, and your reputation will suffer if you become known as that kind of scientist.

  • anon says:

    Yeah, points taken JC and DM. I guess I am just feeling rather pissed at the moment about it. I still feel innovation should be, well, more innovative. . . However, as you say, the nature of science and all that. So back to the writing. . .

  • jc says:

    anon, new golden rule: don't present new shit at a meeting if you think your ass is being sniffed (credit to PP) or your tail will be chased (credit to me).
    don't spend too much time being pissed, throw down some hot science.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    But it is *sleazy*, and your reputation will suffer if you become known as that kind of scientist.
    Maybe we're talking at cross purposes but this is total bullshit. I'm not saying you should be going around stealing ideas because you have none of your own. but the whole point of scientific discussion and meetings is that the group kicks around some ideas and comes up with new shit. almost by definition this process involves person X taking advantage of ideas expressed by person Y in some way.
    now it is a bit sucky that only certain persons in these discussions are in a position to take maximum advantage. those with grants or the ability to submit. those with the best people they can put to work on the projects they've come away with will outcompete some poor postdoc who has to go back and beg the PI to get interested in it.
    this imbalance of power to benefit from the outcome of group collaborative efforts doesn't make it sleazy though.

  • Dave says:

    DM, re #24: Of course my generalization is insulting, but it's not mindless. I am accurately describing three Cell Press editors whom I know the careers of quite well. And my generalization I think fits others.
    This is not to say that Cell Press editors are not very nice people. I have eaten meals with some of them, met their families, drunk beers with them. I like them a lot, and respect that they do their jobs as fairly and reasonably they can.
    But put yourself in their position: You get reviews of a paper. Reading those reviews is like reading emails and comments here: somewhat tough due to unintentional ambiguity. Sometimes it's tough to know exactly what the writer meant or how much emphasis the writer really meant to place on a certain point. If you are reading comments about a pal's paper, you are (maybe even just subconsciously) wanting it to come out OK, because even though the reviewers are anonymous you the editor are not. And when the editors are not sitting in the editorial office they're going to meetings and being told all sorts of hypey bullshit, which they have no choice except to believe because how would they know otherwise?
    In general, I think the best editing is done by practicing scientists, which is usually at the middle-range society-level journals. They actually know which reviewers are qualified and which reviews are full of crap. And they care about their field getting stuff right more than they care about their journal having a humonegous IF and selling ads. It's no secret that the mid-level journals publish the most reliable stuff. Not always so exciting, true. But reasonably solid compared to the 'Breakthrough genomic scale protein-protein interaction map' that is really just 10,000 unreliable yeast two hybrid experiments done by a robot at Harvard or something.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Of course my generalization is insulting, but it's not mindless.
    Your comment in #34 seems to communicate your actual points. I think I agree with what I understand them to be and have posted similar in the past.
    These points have essentially nothing to do with the referenced editors' scientific accomplishments or ad hominem's about being "failed" scientists as per #20. As I suggested, it is easy to diagnose reasons such as a narrowness of training or lack of scientific maturity that are less personal and less insulting.
    I have a big tolerance for snark and bait, for the very obvious reasons. It is not an unlimited tolerance. I've tried to make this point subtly. I've tried to make the point a little less subtly before by direct contact but what appears to be your legitimate email bounced a couple of times.
    So let me be as clear as I can. I do not know you other than via blog comments. Neither does anyone else around here. Understand that no matter objective reality your are nothing more than the sum of your comments in the blogsphere.
    Some, see Stephanie Z's post, consider you to be nothing more than an unrelenting disruptive troll. and suggest that I should ban your ass. I have been reluctant to do so because I have been willing to extend the benefit of the doubt vis a vis the balance of your antics to meaningful points. but I grow weary of the antics and trying to decide if I am being played by a dickweed or not. your move.

  • Dave says:

    DM: I don't actually see how my first post was so offensive. Sure it was a generalization, but no more than my second post, which you seem to approve of. Except personally I liked my first post better because it was more entertaining. I like blogs that are informative as well as entertaining. Also think a little controversey is good for discussions in danger of turning into contests where everybody tries to agree the hardest. But it's your blog, dude; if you think I'm ruining the experience for your audience, then ban my ass. You'll be cheered and I'll get more of the shit done that I'm supposed to be doing when sitting in front of this screen.
    No snark intended here, by the way. I am saying exactly what I mean.

  • Maybe we're talking at cross purposes but this is total bullshit.

    Dude, maybe we are. I am talking about the following kind of situation:
    (1) Post-doc from lab A gives a talk at a conference in which he describes unpublished results demonstrating the effects of flibbity on flabbity. PI from lab B hears the talk, goes home afterwards, grabs a post-doc and says, "As fast as you can, apply flibbity to flabbity, this is the expected result, and write that shit up ASAP." That has absofuckinglutely nothing to with "the group kicks around some ideas and comes up with new shit", which is of course fantastic.
    When I talk about "ass sniffers", I am talking about PIs who are known for repeatedly doing the former, or even worse by using non-public information gleaned during peer-review. And the evidence for it is, as I stated before, among other things a pattern of repeatedly showing up at the eleventh hour with manuscripts that draw the same conclusion as those of other labs, but are sloppily put together slapdash superficial crap compared to the extensively supported well-controlled comprehensive studies of the labs who are originating the ideas.
    It may be a field-specific thing, but what I am talking about can easily occur in a field like genetics on rapidly-growing organisms where once you know what to do, you can knock shit out very quickly and in parallel. In more physiological fields, where each data point must be obtained individually, this kind of thing is much less possible. Someone presenting two years of single unit recordings doesn't have to worry that someone is going home and whipping off a manuscript in a few months. Someone who spent two years figuring out exactly how to design a transgene to manipulate a particular function and figured out what cell-type it needs to be expressed in to have the desired effect is correct to worry, because now that the results of those two years of figuring shit out has been disclosed, someone else can just go home and whip the shit right up presto-changeo.

  • Becca says:

    "I have a big tolerance for snark and bait, for the very obvious reasons." Thank FSM for that.
    "When squinting to see the hawtness through the assholery, sometimes it's better to pass."
    Imagine a world where assholery and hawtscience are mutually incompatible... mmmmm...
    "now it may be the case that anon has additional evidence that someone stole his or her ideas by illicit methods." What, are you going to to around banning my attack-zombies who go seeking out the spiciest brains containing the hawtest science for the express purpose of collecting it all for me? Geeze.
    P.S. The single Glamor mag editor I've personally met is a better geneticist than Dave. *ducks*

  • Dave says:

    "P.S. The single Glamor mag editor I've personally met is a better geneticist than Dave."
    I don't doubt that one bit. But it doesn't refute my generalizations above, since the bar is so low.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    Dave (#8) suggested an annonymous posting of ass-sniffing names on the web. There is a great danger of such posting and it will surely lead to lawsuits, unless the poster has undeniable evidence against the ass-sniffer. If the latter is true, then I suggest said poster will blow the whistle on said ass-sniffer as was the case with the asshole I mentioned in my comment (#7). I would never dare exposing the name of Douglas C. Dean if I did not have both the direct knowledge of the proceeding of the Wash. U.'s committee and a copy of the ORI investigation report, which I got through the Freedom of Information act. Throwing any accusation against anyone into the public domain without absolute proof to support it could be the beginning of the end of the accuser's career, bank account or freedom.
    Thus, though I am all for uprooting all the bad weeds that grow among our beautiful grass, make sure you can prove this is a bad weed.

  • Dave says:

    "Throwing any accusation against anyone into the public domain without absolute proof to support it could be the beginning of the end of the accuser's career, bank account or freedom."
    Versus whispering about it over beers? Think of it as a sort of scientific bathroom wall, where instead of writing "For a good time call...", people write "To get screwed over during review send your manuscript to..."

  • anon says:

    Thanks for comment #32. It made me laugh (and I sure need that right now)- but truly I might tattoo it on my forehead as well. If we get this paper published, you'll all be there in the acknowledgements.

  • CPP's right (as is my new fave editor, jc....if only I knew what journal!) about people getting reputations for me-too submissions. When people describe a certain member of my acquaintance as "opportunistic," they do not mean it nicely. They mean, "will take the opportunity to research and submit as fast as possible once it becomes clear that your lab has opened up a nice line of questioning." Not that scientific questions are exclusive, but you do notice when one person's lab is always on someone else's turf.

  • blake says:

    most of the projects I've worked on have taken years of ground work before results could be generated. Thus I have not experienced anyone doing a me-too on me. The exception was when I published a technique I developed in an emerging hot subfield (I was lucky to be one of the first few people getting in on this subfield). It took me over 3 years to develop this technique. Then after I published it a bunch of groups contacted me asking me to help them do the same and then they generated their own me-too variations within a few months. But that's different because it was all done legitimately where they cited my work (my paper was the most highly cited that my PI ever had)
    Therefore, it seems to me that if someone successfully rushed out a me-too manuscript while the original valid manuscript hasn't even been published yet, that must mean that the original manuscript represented work that was low-hanging fruit to begin with if it's so easy for copiers to bang out something similar in haste. So if this bothers you, then pick more challenging or unique problems to work on where it's more difficult for people to copy you.
    That is, unless the ass-sniffing occurred years earlier but no one else in the field knew about it.

  • Therefore, it seems to me that if someone successfully rushed out a me-too manuscript while the original valid manuscript hasn't even been published yet, that must mean that the original manuscript represented work that was low-hanging fruit to begin with if it's so easy for copiers to bang out something similar in haste.

    No! Not necessarily. Please read this again, carefully this time:

    Someone who spent two years figuring out exactly how to design a transgene to manipulate a particular function and figured out what cell-type it needs to be expressed in to have the desired effect is correct to worry, because now that the results of those two years of figuring shit out has been disclosed, someone else can just go home and whip the shit right up presto-changeo.

    It's only "low-hanging-fruit" now that someone else has hacked their way through the jungle, cleared a path to the tree, and put up signs saying "low-hanging-fruit thisaway!"

  • S. Rivlin says:

    Dave,
    Urinal discussions and whispers are different from posting on the web names of people you believe or know are fraudsters. The urinal talk is "he said - he said" thing that would not hold in court, in case the accused sue you. In contrast, accusing someone on the web is a whole different animal; you are not annonymous anymore, even if you think you are. The accused can sue you and unless you have proof of his/her misconduct, you are screwed.
    That is why I said in my previous comment (#40), if you have proof of wrongdoing, blow the whistle and expose the asshole for what s/he is. There will be those who will discourage you of becoming a whistleblower and as being one myself I can absolutely attest to the fact that it could be a real pain in the rear and much more. However, if you really care about cleaning science and uprooting all the bad assholes that poison it, I encourage you to work with the appropriate bodies either at your own institution or at the funding agency and blow the whistle on them. It is the right thing to do and the right way to do it.

  • CC says:

    And the evidence for it is, as I stated before, among other things a pattern of repeatedly showing up at the eleventh hour with manuscripts that draw the same conclusion as those of other labs...but what I am talking about can easily occur in a field like genetics on rapidly-growing organisms
    Having come out of one of those model organism fields, I'd note that they're also full of PIs with rather ... expansive definitions of "at the eleventh hour". To a lot of them, it means three years after presenting the key data at some GSA meeting and three years before their last mold-covered grad student / first of three "first authors" finishes Supplemental Table 12 for a magnum opus in Genetics. I'd take their complaints with a grain of salt.

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