“David, you do realize that she is in Boston and it is 12 p.m. there, don’t you? She is trying to tackle the same problem and she has a three hour head start every day! Get busy!”

Getting scooped. It’s every publication-driven researcher’s worst nightmare. Will you be Leibniz or will you be Newton? The key is in not wasting precious time.

Perhaps, you have been in a situation similar to the following:

It is getting dark outside the window by your lab bench on the night before you have to leave for the conference. Suddenly a light goes off in the creative realms of your mind. “We do have an antibody to X! We have X, Y and Z purified.” “We know that X and Z do not bind to one another, but we think that X, Y and Z form a complex and we have an assay for Z!” However, the obstacle in this plan is that it’s 5 p.m. and you don’t have any PBS made up for an in vitro immunoprecipitation! In fact, both your lab and the stock room are out of dibasic potassium phosphate. Now you feel like Leonard and Sheldon on a recent episode of “The Big Bang Theory” when the entire university ran out of helium.

If this sort of scenario has happened to you, you are not alone in being a little late to the ball. History provides many examples of photo finishes in game-changing discoveries. Prominent among these stand both the near simultaneous identification of HIV-1 (originally called retrovirus HTLV-III), for which a Nobel prize was awarded in 2008 and the identification of a novel E. coli strain responsible for the illness of 3000 people and death of 40 in Germany. In the former case, Robert Gallo published his findings the year after a fellow researcher in France named Luc Montaigner saw his paper printed and Gallo was left out of the award, in spite of his unique contributions to the understanding of the link between HIV and AIDS. In the latter case, the race to publish was so close that the winning team of researchers actually took to Twitter to ensure their `priority’ in reporting the sequence of the new pathogenic strain.

Another example caused a controversial space saga to have been followed, at least, cursorily by Neil DeGrasse Tyson. In this scenario, two labs split the credit for the discovery of the minor planet Haumea. The Cal Tech lab of Mike Brown got to name the planet, while a Spanish lab led by José Luis Ortiz Moreno was identified as the location of the discovery. I can’t help but picture Tyson shrugging upon hearing the resolution.

Don’t be unprepared when inspiration strikes. There is nothing more expensive than being beaten to the punch when it comes to presenting or publishing first! Grant application success is naturally greatly influenced by the publication record of the applicant. There is far less prestige and sometimes little point in publishing a finding if someone else has already put ink to paper with the same result. So the less time one spends hunting down reagents, the more time and energy one can devote to outpacing the pack!

You only think you have time. –Not Buddha

Dr. David Taylor
GoldBio R&D Scientist

Dr. David Taylor is an aficionado of both art and science. After studying biochemistry
at the University of Missouri, he went on to put his skills to work. His experience has
taken him to places such as Monsanto, Roche Diagnostics,and now to Gold Biotechnology.
Outside of the lab, he devotes his time to family, while also singing and performing.
His talent has allowed him to open for the likes of Ray Charles and the Bobs, and to perform
for the former governor of California!

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