I’ve frantically been writing a grant proposal for a small internal grant competition, due later this week. Basically, I am proposing to update some work I was involved with ~10 years ago. This work was presented at a few meetings, but never published.*
When we were doing the work 10 years ago, it was really innovative. Other people working int he field area were surprised by our results and our literature review didn’t reveal a lot of similar work in other places.
But now there is a reasonably well-established worldwide literature. And, more disturbingly, bits and pieces of our work (in our field area) have been redone — and published.
Maybe the investigators got their ideas from our conference talks, or maybe not. I have no evidence, other than that they were some of the people interested in our results. I don’t think they did anything wrong by collecting their own data and duplicating our results. But in the annals of science, they’ll get all the credit. And our work, because it was never published, might as well not have existed. If you don’t publish, you are invisible. But it’s not all bad, no one had the chance to peer review our data and methodology, and our work wasn’t findable in any database.
Given all this backstory, why am I writing the proposal this week?
Fortunately, in -ology history matters. I still have our 10-year old dataset and some older ones yet. Datasets that span decades are incredibly hard to get, because the typical funding cycle limits projects to 1-3 years of data collection. So the long dataset gives me an important edge. The work is no longer ground-breaking, but it is definitely still original research, and I know it will net me publishable results. The budget constraints of this RFP are so tight that almost anything else I propose would be much riskier in terms of the changes of generating a publication. So, given my untenured status, I think it is pretty important to stop being invisible.
* We had a reasonable excuse. I was a young undergraduate and the PI was very close to retirement and no longer cared about publications.