A collaborator just sent me an in press copy of a paper that examines the -ology of my PhD field area.
Huh. I think I’ve just been scooped?!?!
I have a paper deriving from the last chapter of my dissertation that is just waiting for my co-authors to give their OKs before it is submitted to the very same journal. The in press paper and my paper use similar methodologies for somewhat different purposes. I want to use the field area as an example of process that I think is happening in other parts of the world; they use the field area to demonstrate the applicability of some analytical techniques that they argue could be used in other parts of the world.
I’m feeling frustrated because they really are using similar methods in the exact same field area, and I don’t know what the implications of it are for the prospects of my paper getting published, particularly in the same journal.
On my side, I have a bunch of qualitative data from years spent in the field and they offer no evidence of ever having stepped foot on the ground. (This might explain why I had no idea anyone was doing such a thing.)
On their side, they’ve beaten me out the door. I know that I’m going to at least have to reference them before submitting the paper, and I suppose that the reviewers could definitely ask me to adjust some of my analyses based on their conclusions. It shouldn’t change the outcome of anything in my paper, but it would mean more work.
At the very worst, I guess the journal (and others too) could refuse to publish my paper because of the overlap in analyses…but our papers really are using the same means to very different ends, so I don’t think that’s going to be the case. More likely, I’ll have to explicitly state how my work is fundamentally different.
And here I was thinking that my field was relatively free from some of the pressures and competition that seem to plague other branches of science. Just last week, I was thinking about how I didn’t know of a single case where someone got scooped. But of course, if someone’s work gets scooped, either the paper never gets published or it gets reworked and recast as something completely different. Either way, the casual reader never knows of the scooping.
This just reinforces the need to move expeditiously through one’s research and writing and not to let drafts stagnate on the back burner waiting for the elusive free time to get the paper revised and submitted. This paper had sat from the time of my defense in September 2006 until this spring, and now I may pay a price for it.