Some witty colleagues might say it is because I am not doing anything worth scooping!
Some scientists live in a constant fear of being scooped, i.e. not being the first to publish their latest research result. This can lead to people being very secretive about what they are working on and/or being in an incredible rush to publish. Some groups even require members to sign confidentiality agreements about talking to outsiders.
I always find it strange and disappointing when I ask someone what they are working on and then at some point they say, "I can't say anymore because I don't want to be scooped."
In most cases this strikes me as both egotistical and unrealistic. Most of what we are working on is not so important that others are going to drop everything they are currently doing, steal our idea, work out all the details, and rush to publish...
Sorry to disillusion you.
I often write on this blog about things I am currently working on, long before I have a preprint.
Someone once suggested to me that this was a bit "gutsy" or risky.
To be honest, I would be flattered if someone read a post here and "stole my ideas".
I also don't worry about getting scooped because I have had several concrete "scooped" experiences that showed me that in the long term it did not really matter, particularly in terms of publications.
The stories below show how things are all a bit random.
1. With some mathematics colleagues I wrote a paper about the exact solution to the BCS Hamiltonian for superconducting nanoparticles. We put the paper on the arXiv and amazingly there was a similar posting of a longer work the same day, just after ours in the daily listing. We sent our paper to PRL, but a referee claimed that we had been "beaten" by the other paper! Our paper ended up in PRB Rapid Communications, the other in PRB.
2. While a postdoc with me, Ben Powell did some nice calculations showing how a RVB solution to a Hubbard-Heisenberg model relevant to organic charge transfer salts gave a d-wave superconducting state. I thought this pretty exciting and that we should write the results up for PRL. However, even before we started writing two preprints with similar results appeared on the arXiv. I suggested we write the paper as quick as possible, put it on the arXiv, and send it to PRL anyway. We did and our paper did make it into PRL, along with the other two!
3. Another postdoc completed a draft paper with me, that I then sent to a colleague for comment. He informed me that he read the abstract and realised his postdoc had similar results. He said he would not read more and requested that we both submit to the arXiv on the same day and then send the two papers to PRL, acknowledging each others existence. I agreed. Neither paper made it into PRL. Ours ended up in PRB Rapid Communications. For some reason the other paper was delayed for more than a year.
4. Another postdoc visited his home country and gave talks about our work. Later it was brought to my attention that someone who he had talked to wrote a similar paper, with no acknowledgement of our preprint. When challenged the author claimed it was all different and there was no need to acknowledge our paper.
5. I once gave a talk at which I discussed work that had just been published. A year later someone in the audience published a very similar paper with no acknowledgement of the published work I had described.
So chill out!
It is probably not worth worrying out.
Get some perspective. Remember that in academia the stakes are low.
here and features in this blog post.
Do you have any experiences of being scooped?
Did it really matter in the end?