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stolen experiment - what should i do?

User: bussunda - 29 February 2012 12:23

Hi all, I would like to bring to the attention of this forum what happened to me recently in my lab that made me frustrated. I have been a postdoc for nearly 2 years and I made a key observation for my research and I reported this observation in a lab meeting I had in front of the PI and the whole lab, but I took no pictures of my observation or showed no record of it. Although it was an important observation no one said much after that and with time I got busy with my other things. After a few months, nealry a year later, another postdoc repeated what I did but he took photos and stuff, documented it and in the end got the credit for the discovery which I originally reported! This is so frsutrating and It makes me sick. So far I kept quiet and have not spoken with my PI or the person that stole my idea/experimet fearing that its too late or they will fire me from the lab. What should I do? Am i wright to be angry and this is wrong or maybe I was too passive in this whole situation ?

User: hazyjane - 29 February 2012 12:38

I'm sorry to hear about the situation. I don't know what country you're based in but I think it's unlikely that you would be fired if you discuss this matter with your PI. I'm afraid that, although it may be unfair that someone else ran with your idea, you yourself have some responsibility. It is not a good idea to present novel findings while having no documentation at all. I'm a little puzzled in fact at how you have no documentary/photographic proof of your findings - good scientific practice demands good record keeping as much as conducting good experiments. In this situation I would recommend discussing with your PI the situation, pointing out that you made this observation a year ago. Be careful not to sound bitter and/or accuse your colleague; very few of us have truly unique ideas and ideas alone are no good if not followed up properly. So I think the best you can hope for in this situation is maybe to see if you can get co-credit, and learn from this experience so that you take more care in the future to be active in your ownership of work.

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