What about grant scooping?

April 9, 2016

Enough about getting your paper scooped.

What about when someone keeps down rating your grant proposals with ticky tack criticisms and then, lo and behold, starts working on your topic of interest. 

Did you just convince them it was an awesome topic and they think they can do better*? 

Or is there some nefarious attempt to steal “your” grant at play?

*they can’t.

16 Responses to “What about grant scooping?”

  1. Pinko Punko Says:

    It happens. Likely only small fraction of presumption


  2. jmz4 Says:

    If my experience with PIs is any judge “stealing” ideas is just them forgetting someone else told them about it and then it springing forth 6 months later from their subconscious. Of course if you point this out, they’ll note that the idea has been substantially improved by its tenure in such hallowed cranial space. After all, they thought of that one control.


  3. Philapodia Says:

    If this happens and you can document that the offender has been on study section with your proposal via your Summary Statements (which their name would be on), I would contact both the SRO and the PO for their funded proposal (if theirs gets funded) and send them both your summary statement and grant so they can determine if there is a blatant conflict. If they are just publishing on that topic, there’s not much you can do besides slashing their Bentley’s tires or pulling a Tonya Harding on them.


  4. DrugMonkey Says:

    there is always whining on the Internet as an option, Philapodia.


  5. Brain Says:

    This can definitely happen. I know of one institute with a portfolio approach where redundancy is avoided. I’ve been told that an idea for a project examining effect of brain circuit x on bunny-hopping probably would not be funded even with an amazing score because they were funding another grant on similar topic. I think ideas were independent, but you can definitely lose out to someone who gets funded first.


  6. Philapodia Says:

    Yes, but whining is all it tends to be, which has a low probability to change future behaviors. Especially if the whining happens in places like this where BSDs tend not to go since they are much too important.

    However, whining can be somewhat cathartic to the aggrieved, so I guess it does serve some purpose.


  7. Grumble Says:

    I have yet to come across a single idea proposed in someone else’s grant that I would have the slightest interest in stealing.


  8. drugmonkey Says:

    I know what you mean, Grumbie, I’ve already thought of all the good ones too.


  9. MoBio Says:

    @Grumble and DM: agreed…but it does happen…and likely more than we realize.

    Sort of a waste of the whole science-y thing that “one is on a journey to discover/explicate something new” if you have to steal the idea from someone else.


  10. Philapodia Says:

    “one is on a journey to discover/explicate something new”

    Faculty’s real job is to make money for the university (via IDC, licensing of newly generated IP, tuition, etc.). The whole “discovery” thing is basically the institution “letting” us pursue our hobbies for their benefit (since they own any IP we generate). Discovery and education is secondary to our real job descriptions.


  11. DrugMonkey Says:

    What I hate most, MoBio, is when I have to think about this. Most of the time I default to the “everybody is trying to do the best job they can” mode when it comes to people’s grant reviewing behavior. But when extended patterns start to emerge, one starts to wonder.

    I’ve seen labs where the default stance is paranoia- everybody scoops, everyone is out to get them, everybody is doing them down on grant reviews. It looks like a very unpleasant place to be when I see it. I do not want to enter these places. Very dark.


  12. Pinko Punko Says:

    ^Yes- absolutely best not to cultivate such darkness- it is awful, and I really do think is spawn of Glam-hump. That said, have heard situations where grant reviewer contacted PI on grant to ask for reagents discussed in the grant, because they were “working on same stuff”- W. T. F!


  13. Ola Says:

    @Philapodia Especially if the whining happens in places like this where BSDs tend not to go since they are much too important.

    You’re laboring under the false impression that BSDs aren’t skimming/trolling this and other blog sites to see what the pesky unwashed masses are up to. How else are we supposed to keep the fuckers oppressed? Infiltration baby!

    As a BSD, why would one be so dumb to steal from a grant and then risk getting caught by working on it in ones’ own lab? Far better to just pass along the contents of the grant to my special snowflake RAP, as fodder for his next K99/R00 application. The BSD still gets the credit for launching a career.


  14. Philapodia Says:


    You also seem to be under a false impression, specifically that the BSDs actually care what the unwashed masses are up to or try to actively oppress the riffraff. My guess is that they do not care, they just use the system they help create over the last few decades to get what they want. They probably don’t even see anything wrong with the system as it is, merely that it’s the natural order of things and that it’s survival of the fittest. If you can’t make it in the system they designed, then you obviously aren’t very fit and deserve to die off. Simply evolutionary theory, sort of like social darwinism for scientists. If you can make it in their system, then they’ll bother to acknowledge your existence and extinguish you if you get too uppity.


  15. Ola Says:

    ICYMI (@DM), regarding your other scoop story last week, you might be interested in this…

    Which got picked up here…

    And was featured on Retraction Watch weekend reads…

    That makes for quite a lot of scoopage blogging lately. Is it national gelato week or something?


  16. MoBio Says:

    @DM: dark indeed.


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